Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome To The Occupation


I finished watching a BBC miniseries called Occupation, a daring drama looking at three fictional British soldiers who fight in the second Iraq war. After the war, the soldiers find themselves returning to Iraq during the reconstruction for both mercenary and personal reasons. It's a sobering look at the Iraq war and its aftermath.
Shot in a documentary style with handheld cameras complete with the jittery closeups and swish pans that go with it, Occupation has an undeniable tension and edge throughout. The viewpoint of the piece that I got out of it was of how greed under the guise of emancipation has led to the West mucking about in an area it can never understand, only exploit at a high body count. And it illustrates its points with some strong storytelling.
The storylines follow three guys, the first being a sargeant who makes headlines for his rescue of a young Iraqi girl during combat. Sgt. Mike becomes a national hero, but he falls in love with the Iraqi doctor who worked on the girl which leads to personal and cultural turmoil for everyone involved. Meanwhile, the more brutish Danny hooks up with an American ex-soldier after the war to become fly by night "security contractors" raking in big bucks with no credentials other than a brief case and guns. The third guy "Hibbsy" starts out as an innocent idealist wanting to build a better Iraq who becomes increasingly disillusioned as the series progresses.
Since this is a British program, Americans are presented as more cold hearted cynics than the heavy hearted Englishmen shown which is interesting to see when you're used to American television like me. Ironically, the real stand out performance in Occupation to me was the main American character Lester played by British actor Nonso Anozie. Anozie is so convincing as the pragmatic profit minded American that I didn't think he was British until I looked it up online. A very impressive and commanding presence with great skill.
That isn't to say Occupation is perfect, like anything in tv or film that shoots for realism but still wants to moralize by stringing together running characters by "coincidence" (like the "coincidence" crazy Academy Award winning Crash from a few years ago) it reminds you that you are watching a piece of fiction. Ditto a love scene between the British Sargeant and the Iraqi doctor that seemed to shoot for some unneeded shock value, or at least unsubtle symbolism. These little things took me out of the story at key moments in the second half of the series.
Occupation is a good miniseries packed with drama and some thought provoking moments. In a sad way, it's actually a bit haunting as well. It may not be easy to find here (I found it on the BBC America channel by accident) but well worth seeking out.

1 comment:

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