Dir: Irwin Winkler. US.2006. 107mins.

The first Hollywood film to directly address theemotional and political repercussions of the USoccupation of Iraq,Irwin Winkler's Home Of The Brave isa particularly blunt instrument that never satisfies as entertainment,effective storytelling or moral inquiry.

Didactic and politicallyincoherent, its complex and emotionally risky scenariois the return of several disparate individuals to the US home front. But it eschews morallytough considerations of valour, sacrifice, betrayal or defeat in favour ofhammering the audience into submission with a mix of agitprop and hysteria.

In the US, where the film enjoys a platform release in New York and Los Angeles fromDec 15, it is likely to find the going tricky, given the political moodregarding US policy in Iraq and thefiercely competitive holiday release schedule. Internationally, the subjectmatter is similarly going to be a turnoff: TV and DVD is its likely destinationof choice. Awards profile will not be of any significance.

The script, afirst produced work by Mark Friedman, plays like a right-wing iteration of HalAshby's Vietnammovie Coming Home. The Iraq-setprologue (filmed in Morocco)sees humanitarian aid workers notified of their forthcoming return home, beforetheir convoy of trucks is intercepted and ambushed by insurgents.

In the streetviolence that follows maintenance driver Vanessa Price (Biel)loses her right hand; Jamal Atkins (Rapper 50 Cent, billed as Curtis Jackson)suffers a permanent back injury; army specialist Tommy (Presley) sees hisclosest friend felled in combat operations; and field surgeon Will (Jackson) ispsychologically damaged by the trauma.

The bulk of thenarrative that follows entwines the emotional experiences of the four survivorsas they go home to the Seattle suburb of Spokane, where they all(rather improbably) live.

Each returns,warily and uncomfortably, to find it virtually impossible to assimilate intotheir current circumstances. The story circles and floats around their unravellingemotional experiences, marked by family tension, social break-up and coldlyinefficient Army bureaucracy.

Irwin Winkler hasan impressive track record as a producer, having made terrific films with John Boorman, Sydney Pollack, Bertrand Tavernier and, most significantly,Martin Scorsese. But he has shown himself as less adept at direction.

Home Of The Brave suffers from being constructed as an exhaustingharangue that sees characters yelling and screaming past one another, each convincedof their own moral rectitude and apparently intellectual valour.

The script isepisodic and discursive, and Winkler never establishes a viewpoint that yieldsany sense of discovery. The movie's tendency towards argument and confrontationsets up a series of unrestrained moments from a drunken Thanksgivingconfessional to a hostage crisis that become so irrational that it mutesauthenticity or emotional persuasion. Most damaging, there are too manyflashbacks that annotate the characters' frayed consciousness, ideas andfeelings.

Winkler showssome flair in the cutting and staging of the claustrophobic street violence atthe start. But aside from a lovely, tentative sexual moment involving aphysically impaired veteran played by Jessica Biel, thefilm lacks sufficient emotionally credible action.

The casting choicesare eclectic and interesting, although Winkler is too soft and unfocused with Bieland the inexperienced Curtis Jackson, and too loose and accommodating in themannerist, over-scaled performances of Samuel Jackson and Brian Presley.

The subdued,naturalistic photography of Tony Pierce-Roberts is the film's only restrainedand technically accomplished achievement.Everything else is filled with sound and fury, but it neitherilluminates nor convinces.

Emmet/Furla Films
Millennium Films
North by Northwest Entertainment
Winkler Films
Zak Productions

US distribution

Millennium Films/Nu Image

Boaz Davidson
Danny Dimbort
Michael P. Flannigan
Avi Lerner
Mercy Santos
John Thompson

Rob Cowan
George Furla
Irwin Winkler

Mark Friedman

Tony Pierce-Roberts

Clayton Halsey

Production design
Jonathan McKinstry
Warren Alan Young

Stephen Endelman

Main cast
Samuel L Jackson
Jessica Biel
Curtis Jackson (50 Cent)
Brian Presley
Chad Michael Murray
Victoria Rowell
Christina Ricci