By Aaron Hillis Tuesday, Mar 9 2010
Between the past few years’ worth of Iraq War docs and on-the-ground TV reports, it’s easy to collectively believe that we definitively understand the monotonous yet dangerous daily existence of U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. Kristian Fraga’s unexpectedly captivating first-person perspective of Operation Iraqi Freedom circa 2003 proves we don’t. Fraga’s director credit is a slight misnomer, as Severe Clear was mostly culled from the raw mini-DV footage of Marine First Lieutenant Mike Scotti—with added voice-over and onscreen titles, both ripped from his journal entries—shot as he and his gung-ho company deployed to Baghdad in search of dutiful adventure, hooah! Though front-loaded with scenes of homoerotic horseplay and amusing overheard moments (someone wins a bet that Jack Black co-starred in Twister; a rumor circulates that Jennifer Lopez has died), this is no recruitment video, and emotions speak louder than politics in the grisly images of splattered heads and equally uncensored opinions about the confusing “liberation” of the Iraqi people. Even if we’re burned out on this never-ending quandary, witnessing what Scotti bravely (stupidly?) films in the middle of harrowing firefights is a potent reminder of how thankless a soldier’s job is.