Too Soon To See Iraq On The Big Screen?

This photo provided by Magnolia Pictures shows, from left to right, Rob Devaney, Kel ONeill, Mike Figueroa and Izzy Diaz in a scene from "Redacted." (AP Photo/Magnolia Pictures, Jody Shapiro)
AP Photo/Magnolia Pictures
In another era, Hollywood proudly went to war with the troops, but today, Hollywood has gone to war ... against the war.

In Brian de Palma's "Redacted", Americans rape and murder Iraqis and in Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah", Tommy Lee Jones tries to unravel the mystery of his solder-son's death.

In "Rendition" the broader war on terror comes under fire, as an innocent is kidnapped and sent to be tortured in another country.

And in Robert Redford's "Lions for Lambs", Tom Cruise stars as a smooth talking US Senator trying to "sell" a new Afghanistan strategy to a reporter.

The timing of these films is dramatically different from those of the Vietnam-era like "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now". Just about all of those appeared well after that war had peaked, some of them, years after.

A CBS News Poll released Friday showed that 61% of Americans say it is too soon for movies to be made about the current Iraq war, while a third think it is appropriate.

Men are more likely than women to say it is appropriate for Iraq war movies to be made and younger Americans are also more open to the idea of films being made about the Iraq war than are older people. When it comes to education, college graduates are the most likely of any education group to say it's a suitable time for Iraq movies - 44% say it is.

There are partisan differences as well. While majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say it is too soon for Iraq war movies, 41% of Democrats view them as appropriate compared to just 24% of Republicans who do. 54% of self identified liberals think it is okay for movies about the Iraq war to be made - one of the few groups of which a majority says this. Only 16% of conservatives say they are appropriate.

Opinions of those in military households differ little from those of Americans overall. 58% of those with a family member in the military (not necessarily in Iraq) say it is too soon for Iraq war movies; 37% say they are appropriate.

Views on the appropriateness of Iraq war movies are impacted by one's position on the Iraq war. Among Americans who think we should not have gone to war with Iraq, 38% believe it is an appropriate time for movies about Iraq. However, just 26% of those who think getting involved in Iraq was the right thing say movies about the current conflict are appropriate at this time.

As CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports, the films' creators unsurprisingly believe that the timing of these releases is just right. For director Brian de Palma, the issue is the story that he says is NOT being told.

"Why are we afraid of these images?" de Palma asked, "Is somebody trying to keep us from seeing what we're actually doing?"

In fact so far, it's the audience that is keeping itself far away from these films. "In the Valley of Elah, which garnered very good reviews, earned less than $7 million. "Rendition" earned less than $10 million, and none of the others is approaching the status of a hit. It may be, Greenfield suggests, that the problem is as much with the subject as with any of these films.

Unlike during World War II, there is no united country in pursuit of a clear resolution. And with the Iraq war now having lasted longer than World War II, it may be that reality is more than enough for the movie-going public.



This CBS News poll was conducted among a random sample of 706 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 14-16, 2007. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.