Body of War/ a Film Review | December 10, 2007

There are no heroic battle scenes, no mass peace demonstrations with billy club wielding police, and Tom Cruise is not playing Ron Kovic in the lead. Nonetheless, Body of War, the Phil Donahue co-produced documentary about a soldier paralyzed by a bullet after only five days on the ground in Iraq, is every bit as compelling as Born on the 4th of July was for Vietnam movies.

As a Vietnam vet viewing this war through that lens of experience, I have been repeatedly jarred by reminders of my own time in a war zone and the similarities between the lies told by the politicians to justify both wars. In Body of War Thomas Young’s story is interwoven with video clips of the politicians who told the lies, and, of the Senators and Congresspeople who swallowed them hook, line and sinker. Seen in juxtaposition with the realities of life as a paralytic, the complicity of those who voted to authorize this war and of those who sold it stands in stark relief. The words & music of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder both underscores and illuminates the script.

Speaking for the opposition, Senator Robert Byrd of WVa speech against the authorization vote serves as the unifying theme for the Congressional opponents. Brandishing his pocket copy of the Constitution like a talisman to ward off evil spirits, Byrd is passionately eloquent. The statements of his fellow lawmakers buttress his argument from many angles. Still, the vote goes the wrong way.

Ten of us had the privilege of previewing an advance copy of this Academy Award nominated DVD this past Saturday night. Not one of us left untouched by the powerful telling of this crucial tale of patriotism punished by political malfeasance.

As told in this film, Thomas Young’s story is one of courage rising above adversity, of humor prevailing over despair. We are drawn into the drama of his life, sharing the most intimate and disturbing aspects. We know his happiness, and, we are moved to tears by the utter unfairness of what unfolds on the screen. Personal bravery gets a new definition.

Thomas Young does not play the victim, rather, he is able to assert himself in becoming an articulate spokesperson for those, who like himself, are among the thousands of young men and women who make up the Body of War


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