NEW YORK -- A surrealistic portrait of a soldier struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return home from a tour of duty in Iraq, "G.I. Jesus" is a stylistically audacious effort that doesn't quite succeed in its artistic ambitions. But there is no denying its relevance and passion, and the film contains powerful moments that more than justify its rougher spots.
The titular character of the film is Jesus Feliciano (Joe Arquette), who lives with his beautiful wife (Patricia Mota) and young daughter in a Los Angeles trailer park. Having joined the Marines with the hope of gaining U.S. citizenship for himself and his family, he has been called back for another tour of duty.
The stress of his previous experiences and fateful future weighs heavily on him as he begins to experience a series of hallucinations, including lengthy conversations with an Iraqi (Maurizio Farhad) that no one else can see and visions of sinister U.S. military leaders. These sequences are rendered in various visual styles, many of which involve greenish tints that resemble the nightvision scenes of warfare seen on TV. Snippets of real-life Iraq War footage also are incorporated to powerful effect.
Director-screenwriter Carl Colpaert is less concerned with narrative structure or coherence than in providing fractured visual representations of his main character's tortured psyche, with the result that the story and characterizations never quite connect with the desired emotional resonance. But the film scores points for timeliness and for its laudable effort to treat its important subject matter in a manner that avoids the usual cliches.