Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Don't you just hate it when...’re reading a book, or watching a movie, or listening to a piece of music you’ve begun to like, which is clearly headed in a direction you approve of – and then the author/director/composer screws it up?

I’m not talking about minor losing of the way or straying from the path. I’m talking about cases of screwing up so badly that one can't even begin to forgive the chance they missed.

Recently, I was watching an Australian film called Fragment

You’d have to understand that I didn’t read any reviews of it before watching it. I rarely do that, in order not to spoil things for myself. But to go on.

The opening shots captured my attention completely.

Iraq, 1991. Burning oil wells fill the sky over the desert with smoke. In the foreground, a shattered T-55 tank, and in front of it, several partially disintegrated and charred corpses. 
Enter an American soldier in full combat gear. Diving headfirst into the sand, he focuses the camera in his hands on the tank, the corpses, and the desert, taking what are obviously trophy pictures, going by the gum-chewing complacency on his visage.

Something like this

After a while, he gets up, “liberates” a partly burned teddy bear, chews gum some more, and looks around smugly. Then he clambers on to the tank and takes photographs of the interior, cremated crew and all, through the open hatch (those of us who remember 1991 will have memories of the triumphalism which made this kind of photography possible). Just as he is doing this, a USAF A-10 Thunderbolt comes diving down, plastering the area with armour piercing cannon fire, and a fragment of one of the depleted uranium shells it’s firing smacks through the soldier’s helmet and into his brain.

Cut to twenty or so years later. The former soldier still has the fragment of depleted uranium in his brain, and a tumour has formed around it; a tumour that’s inoperable. He talks to his doctor about the headaches and nosebleeds he’s been having, about his refusal to become a “zombie” by taking drugs that might, or might not, help ease the pain but will have severe side effects, and watches TV documentaries about the effects of depleted uranium and the military-industrial complex which uses it for weaponry.

Now, wouldn’t you think that this would be a great premise for a movie? Wouldn’t this be the jumping-off point for a man’s search for meaning in his own life, juxtaposed against his fight against the cynical use of radioactive poison by profit-driven corporations? Can’t you just imagine the discussion of what depleted uranium has meant to the people of the former Yugoslavia, or Iraq – or Libya today?

Wouldn’t you think that even a halfway decent filmmaker could take this concept and run with it, to make a truly good (if not commercially successful, at least in the Empire) film?

You would.

Instead, what happens? What happens is that the tumour then causes the hero to bring dead things back to life by photographing them. You got that right. With his camera, he turns dead things into fucking zombies. Even when said dead things aren’t even literally there with him, but are a psycho and his victim, photographed from an inexplicably-found DVD.

Zombies. By photograph. At second hand.

I quit at the point where the revived victim wandered – bloody and naked – through the hero’s house sticking knives through her own hand. Normally I like naked women as much as anyone, but in this case I literally couldn’t stomach any more.

I’m still waiting for a film that honestly examines Desert Storm, let alone Operation Iraq Loot.

Or depleted uranium, of course.

Further reading: (On the effects of depleted uranium weaponry)


  1. Sounds like a candidate for worst movie of the year.

  2. Bill, I detest the current crop of zombie-flicks (which is what this one sounds like) - you're right, this could have been an excellent (anti)war film, examining one of the worst aspects of the munitions' trade - not to mention the whole "America! Fuck Yeah!" aspect of Desert Storm and Iraqi Fuckall.


  3. Why have a movie about anything relevant when you can have zombies? I liked your concept much better.

  4. There is crap all around man..
    Australian crap usually involves an innocent group of americans touring the vast aussie desert when they suddenly find themselves being hunted down by a psychotic killer.
    Btw, Rememeber the Indian crap about Hitler and Gandhi? It is releasing this month, not with Anupam Kher though, someone else, and going by the trailer, the genre should be horror(of a trollish kind). It is being named "Gandhi to Hitler"

  5. I do hate it when I watching or reading something wonderful and then the story-line veers off into some weird direction. It's one thing to have twists in a ms or movie, but it's quite another to drive the plot car off a cliff.

  6. I must admit that, unlike you, I actually do read film reviews... particularly those of reviewers whose views I've come to respect.

    On the strength of one of those, I opted not to waste my money on Fragments. Locally it was seriously panned as being an "Ozploitation" movie. That is, an Australian exploitation movie.

    I understand the "motivation" behind the movie was not so much political as it was metaphysical. The senseless violence in our society and the impact it has on the human psyche. Worthy topic, I admit, but one which quite obviously failed to deliver.


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