Review: Body of War B+

A Film Review By Stefan Vlahov

In order for a film to be effective, it needs to do more than just make a good argument, it needs to be spirited, touching, and the filmmakers need to be unflinching in their efforts to create a picture that the audience will readily embrace. This applies almost entirely to documentaries, especially ones that have opinionated filmmakers behind the lens. Body of War directors Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro are certainly opinionated filmmakers, as their anti-war, but pro-soldier, message is aggressive enough to rival even opinionated documentary filmmakers like Michael Moore. And, in my opinion, this works well for them. The story of Tomas Young, a soldier who was shot in the spine and was paralyzed from the chest down in the first week of service in Iraq, takes center stage in Body of War and the filmmakers passionately expose the unjust circumstances under which Young and others like him have to suffer for the rest of their lives. One needs look no further than the robotic agreements of 77 senators to go into Iraq to get their blood boiling. These Senators are agreeing to something so off-handedly, disregarding the fact that it may lead to life-long suffering by people like Young and proving once again that Congress makes blind decisions on human lives almost everyday. But that is a discussion which should be left for the next Michael Moore movie. Speaking of Moore, the sole mistake the filmmakers make is that they focus too much attention to Young’s anti-war activism, arguably the way Moore would have done. These scenes may be mistaken by Donahue and Spiro as ones that will inspire the audience to take part in protests and other anti-war demonstration, but unfortunately all it does is create a malicious streak that for some viewers who view this type of activism as bad for the troops, will hover over every single frame of the film. Fortunately, it won’t for long as the film closes on an emotional note that does not try to tell us to take the initiative, but lets us be captivated by their strength, both physical and emotional, which may actually make us value our lives more, and that is an immense accomplishment.

4 thoughts on “Review: Body of War B+

  1. The subject of Body of War, Tomas Young, inspired me to get back out there and resume my activism against this unjust war and occupation, even well before the film was released. I could not look Tomas in the face and do nothing, I was too ashamed. Thank you for the kind review. I wish everyone in America would see the film. We need to stop the carnage.


  2. Thanks for the kind words. I think Body of War demonstrates how much power cinema can have at teaching us about people like Tomas Young. I personally didn’t know about him before I saw the film, and I think that is true for many would-be viewers. So like yourself, I wish more people saw this film and learned about him and the hundreds like him.


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