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Short summary

The story of an injured American veteran returning home from the war Iraq is set against the backdrop of a critical indictment of the government's handling of the U.S.-led invasion.
Body of War is a documentary following Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran paralyzed from a bullet to the spine, on a physical and emotional journey as he adapts to his new body and begins to question the decision to go to war in Iraq. From soldier to anti-war activist, the film takes an unflinching view of the physical and emotional aftermath of war through the eyes of an American hero. The film unfolds on two parallel tracks. On the one hand, we see Tomas evolving into a powerful voice against the war as he struggles to deal with the complexities of a paralyzed body. And on the other hand, we see the historic debate unfolding in the Congress about going to war in Iraq.

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  • comment
    • Author: Direbringer
    When "Body of War" premiered in Toronto, it reportedly received the longest standing ovation in the festival's history. I wasn't able to see it at the time, and I missed it in Santa Barbara as well. Just in the past few months it's become one of the most acclaimed documentaries in years. So I jumped at the chance to see it here at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival.

    Co-produced by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, "Body of War" is about one man's struggle to survive after returning home from Iraq. It takes the news headlines and puts flesh on them. The consequences of a simple Congressional vote have come home to roost in people like 25-year-old Tomas Young, who is now a paraplegic and a physical embodiment of all that is wrong with our government's actions over the past five years.

    The cost of war is always reported in terms of numbers -- dollar amounts, casualties, refugees. What isn't reported on the evening news are the individual stories, the tragedies that result in broken lives and broken hearts. Tomas' story is representative of the untold thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of young men and women coming home from Iraq with life-altering injuries. No, our presence in Iraq isn't just about numbers, and "Body of War" brings it home, literally.

    It's obvious that a mind-boggling amount of work went into this project. The film's narrative runs along two parallel tracks. On one, we see the Senate vote taking place which originally authorized the war funding. We see legislators take to the floor with equally impassioned pleas on both sides of the debate. Meanwhile, the film cuts back and forth to Tomas' day to day existence, unflinching, from getting out of bed and dressing in the morning to a graphic demonstration of how to put on a catheter. Nothing is held back.

    Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder contributed original music to the soundtrack and, as Peter, Paul, and Mary did a generation ago during the Vietnam War, and countless others in wars before that, the songs of protest only serve to underscore the folly that is the Iraq war.

    As "Grapes of Wrath" exposed America to transgressions against human lives generations ago, "Body of War" is a bold statement which will stand the test of time as a profound achievement in telling the truth about the consequences of America's presence in Iraq. The film is a masterpiece and one of the most powerful documentaries I've ever seen. A warning: this film will bring tears to your eyes over and over and over again. It will move you emotionally and, perhaps, politically. Very few films are truly worthy of the word "important." This is one of them.
  • comment
    • Author: Framokay
    Body of War is an immensely moving portrait of a very heroic young man, Tomas Young. Not only is he an inspiring individual, but so is the team that collaborated to help tell his story.

    The robust standing ovation the film, Tomas, Ellen Spiro, Phil Donahue, and Eddie Vedder received following its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival is indicative of how utterly powerful and courageous, like Tomas, a documentary it is.

    Body of War not only exhibits the senseless brutality and arduous (if unthinkable) aftermath brought by war, but also shows us how quickly people can rush to judgment -- even when under the most critical circumstances –- and unconsciously overwrite the blatant lessons many of us hoped were learned from the past.

    Hopefully Body of War can encourage present and future leaders, as well as citizens alike, to "slow down" and never rush to judgment, especially when our best and brightest -- such as Tomas –- will undoubtedly be thrown into harms way.

    Watch this film.

    "No more war"!
  • comment
    • Author: Kipabi
    Body of War had its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX where it was received by a highly sympathetic and supportive crowd. In the emerging cottage industry of Iraq War films, Body of War is one of the best. This is not about the war in Iraq as much as it is about the war at home. It follows in the ground of films like The Ground Truth and War Tapes by focusing largely on the Iraq War veterans.

    This film brings the tragedy of the Iraq War into human perspective by allowing us to view it mostly through the eyes of a single disabled war vet, Tomas Young of Kansas City. Tomas was severely wounded in the first few days of the war and is paralyzed from the chest down. He has struggled to put his life back together physically and emotionally. He has also become an activist speaking out against the lies that nearly killed him.

    The film intertwines Tomas's story with the footage of members of Congress voting on the War resolution in October, 2002. Its weakness is that the parts about the war vote are at times a little didactic and preachy. However, Sen. Robert Byrd clips and his cameo appearance do add a touch of class. Body of War is a powerful testament to the absurdity and dishonesty upon which the Iraq War was based. Tomas is a hero and he has suffered unspeakable pain, because his country sent him to fight an unnecessary war. He volunteered just after September 11 to go and fight the terrorists that attacked his country and was instead sent to fight to a war against a country that posed no threat to the United States. That is a tragedy both for Tomas and the nation.

    Tomas is a true patriot who is now fighting to bring his fellow soldiers home - including his own brother who is currently on his third tour in Iraq. Body of War is an unflinching film that presents some of the most intimate details of Tomas's physical and emotional suffering in order to help us understand how heavy the cost of this war for vets like Tomas. And yet, while the subject matter is disturbing, the film also uses humor and music to present the story in a manner that is not bleak.

    Most Americans have been isolated from the true costs of this war. We've been allowed to live our ordinary lives (as the administration cuts taxes) while a small portion of our military volunteers and their families have carried the burden for all of us. This is the type of film that Americans need to see so that we can understand the true cost of the war.

    Far too often, this sort of films simply preaches to the choir. It is my fervent hope that Americans who still support the Bush administration and the Iraq war will go and see this very moving and very personal film. There are too many Tomas Youngs who have suffered too much already.
  • comment
    • Author: Arilak
    It is extremely hard to watch this film form many many reasons.

    It is about the lies told by the administration that were repeated almost word for word by the Congressmen and Congresswomen as they voted to abdicate their responsibility. Even the Democrats in both house were repeating the Republican talking points. Only 23 Senators and 123 Representatives had the courage to speak with their own voices and vote no. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was the most eloquent in defense of the right of Congress to wage war under the Constitution of the United States.

    As this was play out, we were immersed in the family and travails of one soldier that managed to last only five days in Iraq before he was sent home paralyzed to suffer the rest of his life. The failure of our country to provide him with the proper care is a shame on the Bush Administration. We send them to die and suffer tremendous injury but we could care less once they return.

    I learned more than I every wanted to about urinary tract infections and catheters. I was amazed that his mother could even stand to be around her husband, a dittohead that also repeated the party line and the Fox noise.

    And, of course, we know now that this soldier suffers needlessly for a war that should have never been waged. That is a shame we all have to live with.
  • comment
    • Author: Cenneel
    Body of War runs a bit less than 90 minutes; but the experience of seeing it makes the time fly by so that one is surprised to see the closing credits.

    This fine film is so much more than the conventional "war documentary". The story of Tomas Young and his family is masterfully interwoven with scorching snippets from the Senatorial voting process that authorized Bush's invasion of Iraq in such a way as to make the personal and the political mesh to the point of implosion.

    Body of War is an extraordinary document that focuses on the experiences of Tomas Young in such a way that one can begin to imagine how many tens of thousands of severely wounded American veterans (and their families) must be going through similar trials. This is a movie that is projected as much on your heart as on the screen.

    I put it to you that unless you, (or someone in your immediate family) has been there, and come back with major lifelong damage, you can't fully appreciate the human costs of this war.

    Seeing "The Body of War" is about as close as you can get to beginning to feel what the wounded vets and their families feel.

    This review doesn't say much about the existential content of the film, and that's intentional. The twists and turns are all the more telling if they are surprises.

    The editing is sharp and potent. The music, especially the two new songs by Eddie Vedder, works in profound harmony with the powerful images on the screen. There is no doubt that Body of War will be in contention for an Oscar next year. It's that strong.

    Whether one is for or against this war, I put it to you that you must go see this movie. This is what our tax dollars are paying for and where America's blood and guts are being spent lavishly. The least we can do is bear witness to this heart wrenching/eye opening story.

    I was privileged to see Body of War at a preview that Phil Donahue recently presented in Washington DC. He spoke briefly before the movie and graciously took audience questions and comments afterwards.

    This important movie was clearly a labor of love for him and for co director and film maker Ellen Spiro. Donahue made clear that he would not be taking any profits from this film.

    I urge you all to go to the website http://www.bodyofwar.com/ and see if this will be any where near you in the coming months; and if it isn't...contact your local theater owner and request that it be screened. Once you've seen it; you'll want others to see it too.
  • comment
    • Author: Celace
    Recently, there have been a glut of documentary films and narrative fiction features released at festivals and in theatres that have been focusing on the current Iraq conflict. Many of these films are have been content to gloss over the conflict or have been intent to provide the typical shock tactics to frighten or hammer conservatives or provide further fuel for the fire, without allowing audiences with a genuine connection or emotional investment. This is not the case with the incredibly engaging and passionate BODY OF WAR. Ellen Spiro ands Phil Donahue's documentary smartly focuses on an engaging, brave and resilient protagonist who gives audiences an opportunity to connect with an actual survivor of the Iraq conflict. BODY OF WAR is a film that unlike other films currently focusing on the conflict, sets out to inspire others to stand alongside the film's hero and hopefully make a difference.
  • comment
    • Author: Joni_Dep
    I expected to be depressed when I was finished watching this film but I had hoped there would be some inspiration within it. There is none. The filmmakers could not put something there that does not exist.

    These are the people who do the work in this country, and who volunteer to protect it. They have been betrayed. We all have. Our love for each other and our vote are all we seem to have left. This film tells us not to waste either of these things.

    I would like to tell the family portrayed in this film that I am glad I have gotten to feel a little of their pain. I can't offer help, and I don't imagine my sympathy helps much if at all.

    I've become involved in a documentary myself. It's called "Fuel". I'm credited as "assistant to the director". The film speaks out against war, greed, and corporate welfare. I hope it can help a little in making our country more independent, and maybe a little less likely to go to war again.

    I give my thanks to the makers of "Body of War". I hope many people watch it. I don't think it will change minds, but it's important to know the hurt caused by war.
  • comment
    • Author: Micelhorav
    If you've admired the wave of well produced (and documented)films dealing with Bush's war in Iraq, then by all means don't think twice, and check out 'Body Of War'. The film focuses on a returning Iraq war veteran who had been wounded in the first few days of being deployed (when he thought he was going to Afghanastan to "get back" at Osama Bin Laden for 9/11/01, only to be duped by his own government)to Iraq. What follows is a combination of footage dealing with Senator Robert Byrd,as well as others trying to talk congress out of voting for the bill of war (out of 100 votes,only 23 voted no,which are listed at film's end,along with the 77 traitors who did vote yes). The rest of the film concerns Tomas Young trying to deal with the physical & mental pain he must deal with on a daily basis. ADVANCE WARNING FOR GUYS: There is some rather unpleasant footage of Young trying to insert a urinary catheter that had me counting ceiling tiles for a few minutes. If you can get past that,Body Of War is another feather in your cap for documentary film lovers who are as sick and tired of Bush's war (which will never be won).
  • comment
    • Author: mym Ђудęm ęгσ НuK
    This was a movie by war critics for war critics. I say unconvincing because if I were for the war, the majority of this movie would not persuade me in the other direction.

    Cons: hardly any convincing arguments against the war, timing makes it seem like a "vote Democrat this election" film, sometimes appears as though the protagonist was a tool of the hawks and now is a tool of the doves (rather than his own person).

    Pros: daily life of a wounded veteran is shown, reminders of the true cost of the war, reminder of the Congressional record and arguments made for/against, the one solid argument is made well by Senator Byrd.
  • comment
    • Author: Helldor
    First of all, no one laughs when someone suffers like this unless they happen to be evil or insane, I am neither. Now as to the claims made by this man, most if not all of his famous letter was either exaggerated or completely untrue. Yes, I know, I wasn't there. But other Veterans WERE and they paint quite a different picture than Tomas does. Tomas was injured, BADLY injured and the most horrific thing about this entire story is that the left wing lunatic fringe of this nation used his pain to further their hate of anything Conservative, GOP and of course, their hatred of the Bush administration. No matter if a person served in the military or not, it is very hard to prove to a thinking person that the war had ANYTHING at all to do with Cheney's greed, Bush's lies/greed or oil companies, since the facts CLEARLY show that none of them profited the way the left has claimed for all these years. The liberals will do anything to stay in political power, they will use anyone, even an injured,tortured individual like Tomas Young. If anyone truly cared for him they would have never used his pain for political gain, which they did, YES, they did. I generally have nothing negative to say about a veteran, but I cannot stay silent, Tomas Young was wrong. No matter how brave, no matter the level of his suffering, it doesn't make it right to protest the war when many of his fellow Veterans were in harms way, doing their job and suffering every bit as much as him and some even more. Many never came home like he did. This is sick. A bunch of liberals profiting from a Veterans pain, how's THAT for an accusation of profiteering ?
  • comment
    • Author: Alianyau
    Powerful documentary that takes a detailed look at the Iraq war and its devastation by focusing on a single casualty; Thomas Young, a 25 year old enlistee from Kansas city, whose story has been interspersed with political flag waving and Bush-isms.

    Thomas enlisted on Sept 13 2011 and was injured after only 1 week in Iraq, shot in the upper chest he was paralyzed and is now on a plethora of drugs to help combat his constant pain and other ongoing medical conditions.

    From soldier to anti-war activist, Thomas began to question his decision to go to Iraq and is now an active speaker against the war. His story was emotional and interesting but I have to admit I fast-forwarded through most of the political hoopla and voting house members. I get what the filmmakers were trying to say but frankly it was boring. Excellent original music from Eddie Vedder. 05.13
  • Credited cast:
    Robert Byrd Robert Byrd - Himself
    Garett Reppenhagen Garett Reppenhagen - Himself
    Cathy Smith Cathy Smith - Herself
    Nathan Young Nathan Young - Himself
    Tomas Young Tomas Young - Himself
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