Sunday, November 8, 2009

All Quiet On the Movie Front

The NY Times would like you to know that the new Woody Harrelson movie, The Messenger, is a "different kind" of Iraq War movie. I don't know; if you have a pudgy hippie like Harrelson as your star, it's hard to believe your film will be anything more than yet another glum wallow through the "unseen" aspects of the war (i.e. the only aspects Hollywood would like to present). Let's check the synopsis: "The Messenger" Tries New Attack on Iraq War Film

It is a war movie, but the war, unlike in most films about Iraq and Afghanistan, is completely off screen; nothing explodes, and flashbacks to Baghdad or Tikrit do not occur. The film instead focuses on the relationship between two casualty-notification officers — a crusty career sergeant (Mr. Harrelson) and a wounded soldier just back from Iraq (Mr. Foster) — whose mission is to knock on doors and deliver news of death to next of kin.

As a coming-home-from-war/buddy movie “The Messenger” is, in one sense, quintessentially American. Shot at and around Fort Dix in New Jersey, with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as extras, it has true grit and flavorful dialogue. (“I’d like to strap her on and wear her like a government-issued gas mask,” Mr. Harrelson’s character says about a comely bartender.) Yet the film, written by Mr. Moverman, who was raised in Israel, and Alessandro Camon, who grew up in Italy, has a distinctly European feel that sets it apart from other Iraq War-related films. It is visually spare, dialogue-intensive and restrained in its plotting.

In other words, it's yet another movie about the Pity Of It All; the wailing widows, the "wasted" deaths of young men, the slowly descending coffins; no doubt set to a mournful "Taps" played while American flags snap ironically in the breeze. It's "different" in the sense that the title and plot are not the same as Stop Loss, In the Valley Of Elah, or Lions for Lambs (some of these titles may be off!), but the theme and intent are certainly identical.

Want to make a different kind of Iraq War movie? Portray the US Army as liberators and warriors fighting an evil enemy at great personal cost in pursuit of a noble cause. If one of the characters is a cigar chomping macho man named "Sarge," who wears a bandoleer like other men wear moisturizer, so much the better.

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