I saw this film on HBO, and then bought the DVD, and have rewatched it at least a dozen times. It’s a fascinating look into the mind of a madman. It begins with Saddam overthrowing the previous Iraqi President, and ends with his capture by U.S. troops after the 2nd invasion of Iraq. We see how he consolidated his power through fear, and how his own missteps lead to his eventual downfall.
What’s interesting to me is that it makes the point of showing how closely Iraq was allied with America before the first Persian Gulf War. Both countries had a common enemy in Iran, and Iraq was seen as a buffer against the radical Islamic revolution of the Ayatollah. Saddam mentions several times early on that he has the support of America. Also the film makes a compelling case for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Apparently Kuwait was stealing oil from Iraq, and Saddam was led to believe that America would not object if he invaded Kuwait to get his own oil back.
But the film also shows how out of reality he was at times. He totally bungled his invasion of Iran. At one point, when he complains because two of his generals ordered their troops to pull back from one area because they were outnumbered and getting massacred by the Iranian troops, Saddam declares that “the Iraqi army does not retreat!” and had those two generals executed. After 8 years of war, and a virtual stalemate, a truce is declared, and even though he didn’t win any of the land that he wanted, he declared “victory,” and had a monument built in his honor. When Operation Desert Storm began, even his own son said that they should retreat because they couldn’t stand up to America’s military, but Saddam insisted they would win.
I was also surprised at how little prepared they were for either invasion. During the first Gulf war, Saddam and his son were driving around Baghdad, hiding out in civilian’s homes. Same during the 2nd war, where he ends up hiding in a little hole in the ground. You’d think he would have had some contingency plans laid out, with top secret heavily fortified bunkers, where he could continue to direct his army. Maybe that just shows how arrogant he was, that he really never thought it would come to that.
One glaring weakness of the film, in my opinion, is that it downplayed the evil of his sons. Uday Hussein was shown to be a bit unstable, and we do see one scene of rape, but from what I’ve read, he was a real monster. Same for the other son, Qusay, who was portrayed as more reasonable than his brother, but in reality he was really almost as bad. But, I’ve always said, at least they went down fighting, unlike Saddam who just gave up when he was caught.
One of the most unbelievable things in the film is Saddam’s two Sons In Law, who defected to another country, but then actually went back to Iraq after Saddam promised that they wouldn’t be killed. And then, of course, they were. Duh! Talk about stupid. These guys had seen first hand how brutal Saddam was, why they heck would they believe him?!?
Anyway, overall, I really enjoyed this film. Great cast, especially Yigal Naor as Saddam Hussein. He seemed believable as a calculating madman. Two Thumbs Up.