Sunday, November 13, 2005
You know, I think Hollywood has been making cynical movies about the military -- movies that are supposed to be a corrective to the gung-ho John Wayne-era films about the military -- for longer than the gung-ho John Wayne era lasted. It's not fresh anymore, folks.
I went and saw this film last night with a friend whose brother is shipping out to Iraq. She was deeply touched by the film and its attempt to lay out a character driven portrait of the modern American soldier.
The film did a nice job of conveying the frustration and tedium that those Gulf War I soldiers experienced in the Saudi deserts, while balancing characters who were cracking up with characters who became stronger. What the film did best was explaining was that Marines are the most efficient fighting machines in the world when given the chance to fight, and that there are no politics when the shit starts flying - there's only the guy next to you.
This is not an anti-war film. It's a war film without any conventional battle scenes, without many deaths, and without a war message outside of this: War sucks, and it changes the people who fight it.
I saw it too. From a purely entertainment pov, it sucked; it's very difficult to portray tedium onscreen and keep the audience enthralled. From a purely war entertainment pov, it didn't rival the death and destruction of any standard war film. From a military perspective, it was the Marine version of Catcher in the Rye. Little bravery or sacrifice, much vulgarity and self-centeredness. Of course it was an anti-military movie. Gimme "Private Ryan" any day of the week.
Hollywood follows the money. If unambiguous, sentitmental movies about the military were blockbusters we'd see them every summer. And we do see them at times: Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down.
Jarhead is an attempt to bring one of the best written war memoirs to the screen, by an adventurous director. Take it for what it is, and not as emblematic of the entire genre of war films.
Personally i think you give Hollywood too much credit. Follow the money? Which movie made the most "Saving Private Ryan" or the string of crap that I don't watch or see starring the anti-heroes of the day. They make enough to make a profit and follow their concept of what is reality despite having never seen it. They are ideologues in search of a message. But that's just my opinion.