Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.


    No Rating Available

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

A wit once observed that war is 99 percent sheer boredom punctuated by 1 percent utter terror. The soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery—the “Gunners”—prove that truism in this documentary on the Iraq War.

It’s 2003. Saddam Hussein is still at large. And American Gunners have taken over a bombed-out palace formerly owned by Uday Hussein, one of Saddam’s murderous sons. It will be their home for the next 410 days. In the chaotic aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, the soldiers set aside their artillery pieces and become cops, social workers, politicians and even truant officers in the al-Adhamiya section of Baghdad, the last place Saddam Hussein had been seen alive.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Tucker takes his camera along on routine patrols and raids, but he also turns it on the daily life of soldiers fighting monotony and homesickness, and trying to make sense of their little piece of a messy situation.

Positive Elements

A wise Marine Corps major I served under once observed, If the men are complaining, you know everything’s all right. It’s when they stop complaining that you know you have a problem. With that thought in mind, viewers should not mistake some apparent cynicism and griping seen onscreen as a sign of disloyalty or incipient mutiny on the part of featured soldiers. All of these soldiers readily obey orders, do their duty and, most impressive, show remarkable patience and compassion toward the Iraqis they encounter, even those whose hostility boils barely beneath the surface.

Spiritual Content

An Iraqi interpreter says, “God is watching over me, and he’s the best protector on Earth.” An Army chaplain makes a visit to an Iraqi orphanage. A patrol leaders says, “Thank the Lord” after he learns a soldier was not injured by a terrorist bomb. At the memorial service for Lt. Ben Colgan, who was killed in action, a soldier holds a commemorative medal with the lieutenant’s image on one side and John 15:13 on the other: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Some scenes are set around the al-Hanifeh mosque, and a sequence shows Shiite Muslims celebrating their festival of Ashurah. An American soldier sings in an improvised rap about Iraqi insurgents, “You’ve gotten arrested/you're tryin’ to pray to Allah/because he didn’t bless ya.”

Sexual Content

A soldier boastfully shows his laptop computer’s wallpaper image: a sign advertising oral sex for $10. The wall over his bunk has the word “boobs” written on it. A soldier introduces an Iraqi interpreter—a much older man—and says, “We both want to f---. Not each other, though.” An Iraqi man on the street practices his English for the camera, the extent of which seems to be the word “sex.” A soldier gives a young Iraqi interpreter a lesson on how to pick up women, including this advice: “Make sure she’s legal age.”

Violent Content

For a war documentary, the film is remarkably light on observed violence, although there is plenty of talk about it after the fact. A sergeant, giving a tour of Uday’s gutted palace, boasts, “We dropped a bomb on it; now we party in it.” Quick shots show artillery, machine guns, rifles and grenade launchers being fired, but all during training, not combat.

During a raid on a suspected bomb maker’s house, a soldier holds the weapon the man had reached for and tells about how he stopped him: “He was going for this when I punched him in the f---ing face.” (Consider that shooting the man would have been a justified wartime response and you get a sense of the restraint these soldiers show day in and day out.) During another raid, Army Humvees ram through courtyard gates and doors. Soldiers point rifles at a group of people to keep them still, and they aim their weapons at Iraqis during house raids.

A soldier plays a first-person-shooter video game on his computer, and we see him gunning down “enemies” onscreen.

Crude or Profane Language

Gunner Palace features 35-plus uses of the f-word (it’s used in a sexual context, it's combined with “mother" and it's subtitled). There are more than 20 written and spoken s-words. Numerous milder profanities include “d--n” and “h---.” (See the “Conclusion” for a discussion of how a movie with so many obscenities got a PG-13 rating.)

Drug and Alcohol Content

Soldiers smoke cigarettes and cigars, as do several Iraqis. The soldiers take a drugged-out Iraqi boy, whom they identify as a habitual glue-sniffer, to see a medic. A soldier complains that they’re not allowed to drink alcohol, and one composes a song on his guitar called “The No-Beer Blues.” That same soldier talks about how his life consisted of drugs and drinking before he joined the Army, and more drinking afterwards while stationed in Germany.

Other Negative Elements

We see an Iraqi National Guard recruit vomit after a particularly tough exercise session. Graffiti near a soldier's bunk reads, “I hate everyone equally.” Rap lyrics, most of which are made up by soldiers, include references to "n-ggers," "fags" and "p---y."


Gunner Palace could easily have become an anti-war documentary, and some have tried to use it for that purpose. Supporting their case is a scene in which a soldier questions the value of the war in Iraq by saying, "I don't think it's worth the death of somebody's family member." Elsewhere, soldiers joke cynically about their vehicles' ineffective, scrap-metal armor.

While some civilians may misread it, as a former Marine I immediately recognized that much of the soldiers' "discontent" is actually gallows humor and is not intended as a criticism of the war; such humor is a generations-old tradition in the armed forces. And I believe director Michael Tucker is being honest when he says he just wants to pay tribute to the Gunners and the duty they perform in Iraq. The result is a warts-and-all portrayal of Army life in a combat zone—the boredom, the fear, the occasional pettiness and, for the lower-ranking soldiers, the sense of being lost in a larger picture they can’t see. Overall, they acquit themselves remarkably well.

As an aside, it’s interesting to see how pop culture has influenced the way we all perceive war and the way soldiers view their daily lives. Onscreen, a soldier makes the point that most Americans are too obsessed with reality TV to pay attention to the real reality going on in Iraq. In his press notes, Tucker wrote, “At times, it didn’t feel like we were making a war documentary. Rather, it was like a fictional movie—driven largely by the cinema of war.”

He asserts that the older soldiers' reference point came from 1970s films such as M*A*S*H and Apocalypse Now. (One scene in Gunner Palace is a mock rip-off of a sequence in the latter film, complete with Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background.) The next generation of soldiers identified with ‘80s films such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. And “for the teenagers,” Tucker said, “it was Jacka-- Goes to War,” citing the MTV series based on incredibly dangerous and stupid stunts.

The MPAA had originally given Gunner Palace an R rating, chiefly for language, but reversed itself upon appeal, assigning the softer PG-13. While convincing the ratings board to change its mind, Tucker asked, “What does a soldier say when a mortar round hits his compound? You don’t say, ‘Golly.’” True enough, but what about the times when bombs are nowhere to be found? There is no situation in this film remotely close to the circumstance Tucker brought up. Every use of the f-word is during casual banter, sexual joking or in the numerous impromptu rap songs the soldiers perform for the camera.

Another rationale in Tucker’s appeal was that the film portrays real life as soldiers live it, and it is important for young people considering joining the military to get a taste of that. Again, true, but again unconvincing as it relates to rating movies. An R rating would have served that purpose equally well, since teens must be 17 to join the military and need a parent or guardian’s permission before age 18.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range




Petra Epperlein ( )Michael Tucker ( )


Palm Pictures



Record Label



In Theaters

On Video

Year Published



Tom Neven

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!