Nick Broomfield, the loose-cannon British documentarian, has never shied away from inflammatory subjects ("Biggie and Tupac," "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer"), and for this fictionalized feature he's chosen a doozy: the U.S. Marines accused of murdering 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005.
In that still-pending case, witnesses said that the Marines methodically gunned down residents in retaliation for the death of a comrade killed by a roadside bomb; soldiers called the deaths unavoidable casualties.
Broomfield not only dares to dramatize one possible narrative of that day, he throws gas on the fire by casting three ex-Marines - who served in Iraq - in the starring roles.
Shot in a gritty, verité style that has the immediacy of news footage, the film rings of authenticity. The Marines are jumpy young balls of stress; the "insurgents" are Iraqi family men driven to plant bombs for money; and al Qaeda moves effortlessly through the ether, untouched.
Broomfield clearly has his own version of events, but although he assigns blame he also refrains from easy moralizing. The Marine Corps brass, safe behind their desks, are among the film's only true villains. *