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Film review: Soldiers' words bring wars home

Published: Friday, April 13 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience — *** — Documentary feature about Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom; featuring the voices of Beau Bridges, Robert Duvall, others; not rated, probable PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, racial epithets).

If there's a knock against "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," it's the film's use of celebrity voices.

This war documentary, produced for public television, features soldiers' writings about their experiences. It also features re-creations and dramatizations, using animation and such actors as Beau Bridges, Robert Duvall, Josh Lucas and Aaron Eckhart, who narrate those sequences.

That's sort of an odd choice for a film that doesn't need gimmicks. But thankfully, it turns out to be a minor distraction, and the stories — there are nearly a dozen of them — are pretty interesting.

Television producer and director Richard Robbins was able to obtain writings from soldiers who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. (A book that compiles these and other submitted tales was published last fall.)

Robbins also augments the dramatic depictions with interview snippets that feature the soldiers discussing their work, or appropriate commentary from authors Anthony Swofford ("Jarhead") and Joe Haldeman ("The Forever War" and "Forever Peace").

It's certainly a different approach from more straightforward Iraq War documentaries. And the film definitely has effective moments, especially those dealing with grief and the rough transition from military to civilian life.

"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" is not rated but would probably receive an R for violent war imagery (shootings, and both vehicular and explosive mayhem), some strong sexual profanity, crude slang terms and other suggestive talk, and use of epithets and slurs based on ethnicity and nationality. Running time: 81 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com