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as we see the terrible events that unfold before our eyes in the middle east at the moment , hollywood doesn't loose the oppertunity to get involved , by telling stories and expressing opinions .
this film centers on a relationship forged throughout the adult lifetimes of two marine colonels , hays hodges ( tommy lee jones ) and terry childers ( samuel l . jackson ) .
they fought side by side in vietnam , where childers saved hodges' life by shooting an unarmed pow .
that's against the rules of war but understandable , in this story anyway , under the specific circumstances .
certainly hodges is not complaining .
years pass .
hodges , whose wounds make him unfit for action , gets a law degree and becomes a marine lawyer .
childers , is now a respected and much-decorated hero that has served his country with his life and sould .
because of his excellent record , childers is sent to yemen to rescue the american ambassador ( ben kingsley ) , cowering in the embassy under assault from violent demonstrators and snipers blasting from rooftops .
childers does what he has to do : evacuate the family and protect the men under his command .
after three marines die and the colonel thinks he sees ground fire , he orders his troops to shoot into the firing crowd .
more than 80 yemeni men , women , and children are mowed down .
childers is immediately accused of ordering his men to fire on a crowd and murder of unarmed civilians .
he persuades his old friend hodges to represent him in the courtroom drama that occupies the second half of the film .
did childers violate authorized u . s . military rules of engagement ?
or are there simply no rules in war ?
the answers to these stereotypical questions are obvious , but the inconsistent plot immediately raises all sorts of other questions .
the murder of 83 " innocent civilians " has to result into something greater than a simple trial in the u . s . where is the accusations from the arab leaders ?
where is the u . n . ?
the film ends without even telling the most interesting story : what happens on the international arena ?
this film ( in a way akin to films such as " a few good men " ) has already been accused of breaking the rules of morality and ethics and even of racism .
these accusations are pretty heavy , but also unfair .
what director william friedklin truly broke was the rules of decent filmmaking .
one of the earliest apparent problems with 'rules of engagement' is its lack of credibility .
the entire operation in yemen may remind us about what happens in the middle east right now , but is overdone , contrived and unrealistic - as if a chain of events had to happen in a particular manner in order for the plot to proceed .
a lot of it is so cheesy that no one could possibly accept it as reality .
that is precisely why it's not offensive .
it is completely unobjective .
many stories are started and never finished .
many questions are asked , but never answered .
a lot of parallels are referring to nothing .
it seems that neither the director , producers or the screenwriter can make up their minds about the contents of their film .
is it about arab mentality ?
america's foreign policies ?
america's role in the world ?
corruption in the higher circles ?
it goes on and on .
it consists of countless stories , but not a definable plot .
it tries to be everything for everyone and ends up being nothing for no one .
i think that it is ironic , because director william friedkin's probably most acclaimed film was " the exorcist " which had a silly story , but became a rather effective film .
in this case you have a strong story with many possibilities and the result is a silly film .
though several scenes bare the mark of professionalism ( such as the impressive battle scenes ) , his latest film does simply not engage .
i believe that friedklin is a director that is absolutely depended on great scripts and talented producers in order to succeed .
it's obvious that he has neither and the result is therefore a catastrophe .
the characters feel designed , unreal , merely shadows , with no life outside the conflict .
even the actors can not save this film from going under .
though both jackson and jones act admirably , with performances that are as good as you get with a script like this , it is not something that these great actors can boast of .
they have roles that they could play blindfolded with their hand on the back .
jackson is gray and jones uninteresting .
the rest of the cast , including ben kingsly , blair underwood and guy pearce are simply waiting for their paychecks .
the time has come for the verdict .
on the charges of complete lack of objectivity , i find this film guilty .
on the charges of breaking the rules of reasonable filmmaking , i find it guilty .
but on the charges of racism i find this film not guilty , because of it's inconclusive and often silly plot that lacks objectivity everywhere , not only when concerning the arab population .
i must admit that the film is dangerously near the line of being racially offensive and i do think that screenwriter stephen gaghan went a bit too far , portraying the yemeni people almost as stereotypical hollywood bad-guys .
this is very sad , since in a time like this it is crucial to not lose objectivity and proclaim the truth .
however , it is absolutely necessary to remember that the muslim terrorists are responsible for most of the terrorist activity in and outside the united states .
and that it's not a coincidence that u . s . residents in the middle east , including yemen are on constant maximum alert .