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BMZ Review: Fires of Kuwait
By Dave Lewis


Fires of Kuwait
Written by: Dave Lewis
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: March 15, 2004


Category: Reviews

Fires of Kuwait is an alternately suspenseful and educational IMAX film documenting the Herculean efforts of firefighters in extinguishing the disastrous conflagrations lit by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the last days of the first Gulf War in 1991.

Directed by IMAX vet David Douglas (a long way from his previous LF film, the rockumentary The Rolling Stones at the Max), Fires of Kuwait is a typically larger-than-life affair that suits its subject matter. Words fail when describing the sheer size of the fires and, indeed, if left unattended, they would have burned for a century.

As narrated by gruff character actor Rip Torn, a brief, largely static opening prologue retraces the steps leading up to the Gulf War and Hussein’s last-ditch effort to slow the Coalition victory by torching the many miles of oil fields in war-ravaged Kuwait. This is the film’s only excursion into the politics of the era, and the rest is spent chronicling the efforts to quell the blazes. More than 20 countries leapt to their feet in order to ally against the raging flames. The film mostly follows the efforts of a group of Texas-based oil well firefighters as they systematically assess the situation and construct a game plan to put out the 800-foot tall walls of smoke and flame. 

Many of the images in Fires of Kuwait are truly unforgettable, as the deserts and oases of Kuwait are turned into lakes of burning oil, looking like something out of Dante. Adding to the Hellish landscape of the burning wells, the smoke and soot blotted out the sun, effectively turning day into night.

With many experts estimating that it would take five years to put all of the fires out, these men and women were able to do it in just under nine months. Fires of Kuwait serves as a celebration of their efforts, as well as a cautionary tale about the cost of war on the environment. Despite the downbeat subject matter, Fires of Kuwait ends on a hopeful note of renewal.

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