“The film isn’t, as a number of sources have claimed, an imitation of current Hollywood violence,” says Bruder. “Action movie violence is rarely ‘graphic’ now in the sense of Sam Peckinpah,” whose “blood ballets” in The Wild Bunch (1969) marked a turning point in Panavision carnage. Instead, the ISIS moviemakers reach back 20 years to Natural Born Killers in terms of effects. “But there is stylistic overkill and the production comes off at times more like the gore movies Saw or The Evil Dead, Bruder says. “It has been produced by someone who is in love with Final Cut Pro,” an editing software.
The filmmakers, who are most likely Western or Western-educated, appear to be learning on the job and as they develop techniques, imagery and narratives appealing to young, disaffected Western Muslims. “In The Flames of War there is heavy use of slow motion and image manipulation to glorify the fighters and make their deaths aesthetically pleasing,” says Bruder.
In one scene a jihadist is hit by an explosion and the video slows almost to still frames. The narrator then praises the fighter, quoting a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad says “Those who have taken their position on the battlefield, and do not turn their faces away until they are killed” are the best of martyrs.
In film terms, the slow-mo technique diminishes the agony of the jihadist’s death and in a film that runs almost an hour only one ISIS fighter is shown actually dying as “his soul was gently lifted.” This in contrast to the footage of the group’s foes slaughtered en masse.