Walking around the city lately, it’s been hard not to notice those stark photos of wounded soldiers with missing limbs in the ads for Alive Day Memories. You’ve probably even drawn your own conclusions on what the documentary, helmed by Sopranos star James Gandolfini, is about. But the film — which airs Sunday on HBO, and had its New York premiere last night at the Morgan Library — is surprisingly neutral; while never explicitly pro-war, its recounting of the stories of the war’s injured is decidedly pro-American. In it, Gandolfini interviewed the veterans about the day they were attacked (and survived; hence, “alive day”). “I just thought that as a group of people over there serving our country hard, they need to be heard…nothing political, not on either side.” More surprising was nary a harsh word from the wounded themselves.
Cpl. Jacob Shick, who broke every bone in his body except his right arm after his Hummer was hit by a triple-stacked tank mine, said, “I’d do it again yesterday. Same results, same outcomes.” Staff Sgt. John Jones, the soldier featured in the ads wearing a Marine uniform, his hands clasped between his prosthetic legs, commended the airbrushing job — “my wrinkles aren’t really noticeable in there!” — before reiterating, “politics doesn’t need to be in somebody’s story.” And the film’s executive producer, HBO’s Sheila Nevins, learned something in the process. “I thought [the war] was about waste. But I realized it was about courage. And waste.” —Amos Barshad