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Only The Dead

12 October 2015 | 4:18 pm | Sam Baran

"Gory and violent but not to excess, Only The Dead is a hard watch, but worth it."

Only The Dead is a harrowing first-hand account of Australian journalist Michael Ware's experiences in war-stricken Iraq, cobbled together from hundreds of hours of footage Ware recorded after American forces declared the end of major combat operations in 2003. It focuses on the atrocities and anarchy that followed: the crippling mental and physical attrition on American forces viewed as oppressors rather than liberators; the rapid descent into brutal civil war and chaos; the sheer disregard for life demonstrated by the ruthless Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his fanatical followers as they conducted a reign of terror which closely resembles that of the Islamic State today.

Composed of first-hand footage from a warzone, Only The Dead is inevitably both emotionally confronting and hopelessly violent. Thankfully, Ware steers us away from gratuitous shock-value horror and focuses instead on his own narrative exploring Iraq as he sought to make sense of it all. The finished product is captivating, with Ware's almost careless bravery as he accompanies American soldiers re-taking cities and insurgents launching RPG attacks in the dead of night bringing home the reality of the war in a way that is impossible to ignore. Ware doesn't politicise or criticise the atrocities of either side, but lets the events we witness speak for themselves, and his matter-of-fact narration leaves you room to breathe, and think, and draw your own conclusions.

Gory and violent but not to excess, Only The Dead is a hard watch, but worth it.