“Shadow Company” is a lesson in how to get audiences who know little and care even less about the Iraq War to sit up and pay attention. Mixing explosive frontline footage, videogame scenes and clips from “The A-Team” with talking heads, pic presents an energetic look at the controversial subject of private military companies — modern-day “mercenaries” (a loaded word the docu spends considerable time exploring) that fight for financial gain rather than political ideology. Feisty approach feels versatile enough for classrooms or cinemas, reprobation or recruitment. Already available on DVD, pic begins a one-week L.A. engagement Sept. 14.
Co-directors Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque traveled to Iraq and Sierra Leone to interview key historians, analysts and PMC pros, but the only real access they provide to the job itself is through training camp drills. On-the-ground perspectives come from Bicanic’s college pal James Ashcroft, a lawyer-turned-soldier of fortune, whose jocular emails convey these men’s cowboy spirit. Pic explores the motivations behind their line of work, but offers few observations of their personalities in the field, cheating us on specifics and leaving many of these 20,000 unique soldiers’ stories in the shadows.