The story of how a young, fairly inexperienced man ends up largely by accident as a civilian in Iraq for a short time (the time to smoke 20 cigarettes), and gets caught up in events there which lead to him coming home to Rome a very different person. The transformation in his life is told with warmth and humour, and without any moralising or politicising.
The film is engaging from the start, and moves through a number of different phases and moods with great dexterity. It can be lighthearted, but is genuinely disturbing at times, and viewers should be prepared for some shocks, but in a way which is never gratuitous. The direction tries to convey the main character’s experiences from various viewpoints, and we build up a sympathetic relationship with him in a convincing way. This makes the first-person sequences during the war scenes remarkably effective, and utterly riveting to watch. The later scenes back in Italy are also well-managed, and we are led to reflect on the impact on his life in many different ways, some of them profoundly moving.
Vinicio Marchioni is excellent in the main role, but there are a lot of good performances elsewhere too.