Once Upon a Time in Iraq review – a gripping, harrowing masterpiece

Once Upon a Time in Iraq review – a gripping, harrowing masterpieceJuly 14, 2020

The people who were involved in the 2003 invasion – Iraqi and American – tell their stories and unravel the argument that anything good came out of it

At the outset, Once Upon a Time in Iraq (BBC Two) promises to tell the story of the 2003 invasion in an unfamiliar way, not from the perspective of the politicians or the analysts, but by asking the people who were there to tell their stories. Its director, James Bluemel, employed a similar tactic to devastating effect in the Bafta-winning Exodus: Our Journey and Our Journey to Europe, asking refugees fleeing Syria to tell their own stories. The approach is no less devastating here, and this five-part series is gripping, harrowing and, at times, darkly funny.

It begins with archive footage and the familiar voices of Bush and Blair. Then journalists, soldiers and Iraqi civilians take over, recounting the period leading up to, and including, the invasion in 2003, painstakingly unravelling the argument that the country was made safer and more stable. Bluemel has found an impressive array of voices, each of whom has a different take on what happened and what went wrong.

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