There have been many films about the folly and horror of war. Over the last few years these have tended to focus on the rise of daesh and the continuing ‘war on terror’ in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. War reporters need to tread a careful ethical line, balancing the need to document objectively with the basic morality as a human being. Only the Dead is a signed confession from a journalist who lost his soul to war and came out the other side.
Michael Ware is an Australian journalist who worked for CNN and Time, spending seven years reporting in Iraq beginning with the US invasion in 2003. Filmed using a handheld camera, Only the Dead charts his time covering the changing face of the war. After the war ended, it soon became clear that the methods of conflict and struggle haD irrevocably shifted to guerilla warfare and suicide bombings. This coincided with the rise of al-Qaeda and the brutal ideology of its leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi , who chose Ware to be a conduit for his propaganda.
Only the Dead is not your standard story of modern warfare. It doesn’t take sides or concentrate on barbarism or the unethical actions of the occupation. It’s a documentary about something deeper and much more disturbing. Ware documents how he himself, and many of the young soldiers, lost their moral compass and became completely dehumanised. The final scenes are some of the most disturbing I’ve seen on film, not least because, despite weeping, I watched.
Only the Dead is out in cinemas today.