G.I. JESÚS
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

America's involvement in Iraq has spawned a
filmmakers, many of whom have crafted
compelling films about US soldiers or Iraqi
civilians. Now, audiences are beginning to be
exposed to fictional movies which deal with the
conflict and/or its aftermath. At the end of
2006, there was
HOME OF THE BRAVE which
attempted to be this generation's
THE BEST
YEARS OF OUR LIVES
(and didn't quite achieve
its goal). At Sundance 2007, John Cusack earned
kudos for his lead performance in
GRACE IS
GONE
. These are but a few examples of what's
out there.

G.I. JESÚS is an intriguing piece co-written and
directed by Belgian-born Carl Colpaert, who
amassed producing credits on some of the
seminal films of the late 1980s and early 90s
(such as
MI VIDA LOCA, SWIMMING WITH
SHARKS
, and HURLYBURLY). The movie is
packed with great ideas -- some of which are
barely touched on but are there for audiences to
debate -- and yet it also comes off as clumsy
and unformed. The movie is a mishmash, yet it
proves to be compelling. The actors are uneven,
sometimes great, sometimes amateurish,
sometimes both -- and sometimes both in the
same scene. There's a curious push and pull to
the film that makes it compelling viewing and
yet it still feels as if it needs another go-round
in the editing room.

Jesús Feliciano (Joe Arquette) is a Mexican
national living in the United States. He has
enlisted and served in Iraq in order to gain
resident status for himself and his
Dominican-born wife Claudia (Patricia Mota). It's
unclear if their seven-year-old daughter Marina
(Telana Lynum) was born in the USA or not. Joe
is flying back from Iraq in the company of his
injured buddy Sean (Mark Cameron Wystrach)
and is warmly greeted by Claudia when he
arrives at the airport.

Once home, he becomes suspicious, though.
There are expensive items like a plasma
television and a cappuccino maker, courtesy of
Claudia's co-worker Fred (Wes W. Thompson).
Jesús harbors doubts about his wife despite her
denials. He also has nightmares about his time
in the Middle East and may in fact be suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder. The
filmmakers get subtle digs in at the lack of
quality care that veterans receive, the way
pharmaceutical companies encourage some
doctors to test medications on human subjects
(in this case military men), and at the leaders
who led the charge for the invasion. (The latter
is very subtle and accomplished via some
paintings.)

Jesús also begins to see an imaginary Iraqi
doctor named Mohammed (Maurizio Farhard)
whom he shot to death along with the man's
wife and young daughter. The pair (note the
names) engage in heated debates and
discussions over culpability and violence. It's
also noteworthy to mention that Jesús first
encounters this man is when he's at the gas
pump.

A little more than half-way through the movie,
Colpaert throws the audience a curve ball which
is perhaps in homage to David Lynch. This twist
leaves the audience wondering what is reality
and what isn't. It's a bold move but one that
might off put some audience members.

I would also suggest paying very close attention
to the dialogue near the film's end because
there are hints about exactly what has
transpired. To be honest, I didn't "get" the
exchange until I was speaking with a friend who
had also attended the screening.

G.I. JESÚS isn't perfect but in its modest
manner it is an ambitious and intriguing film. It
is packed with topics ranging from immigration
to the deployment of potentially ill men and
women to the lack of proper care for veterans to
the haunting effects of what men and women
have done in Iraq. There's a lot to consider and
Colpaert and his co-writers Deborah Setele and
Deon Wilks deserve credit for attempting
something so timely and so purposeful.

Rating:             C+
MPAA Rating:    R for language, some
                     sexuality, nudity and
                     violence
Running time:    90 mins.


  Viewed at Magno Review Two
Joe Arquette (in mirror) as Jesús Feliciano and Patricia
Mota as Claudia Feliciano in
G.I. JESÚS

Photo courtesy of Cineville