Let’s talk about war movies.
First I would like to say that I don’t presume to know about producing movies, writing scripts or selling entertainment to the masses. That being said what I can do is look at something and apply a realistic mechanism to it that will allow as much realism to pass through as possible. The war condition is a completely unique and extremely personal experience. In every action movie or book when the action flows properly it makes sense and the experience is enriched.
There is a fine line between entertaining an audience and depicting realistic war-like conditions. There are some highly popular blockbusters that are well received by civilian audiences and extremely lucrative, however they lack the heart, soul and grit of the experience of war. For example I have never seen a soldier single-handedly defeat 20 enemy combatants with his Leatherman tool. On the other end of the spectrum are the movies that capture the brutality of war and amplify it solely for shock value. We have all seen the movie where the protagonist haunted by his experiences turns into something horribly dark and dangerous.
As a combat Veteran I appreciate it when a film captures the action properly (i.e. claymores do not erupt into giant fire balls), the characters involved in the story have depth and meaning, and finally the shared experience of a harrowing event regardless of its outcome. If the characters mean nothing to you, then you don’t understand why his/her comrades are distraught at the loss. The best example of this is Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers bridged the gap between reckless entertainment and overzealous grit. It opened the shutter of the war condition that not only allowed us to experience WW II in a way it had never been seen; it also allowed us to see the little things that worked towards the totality of the experience. The pranks, the trials, the successes and the failures seem small but without them only part of the story is told.
So how is this realism obtained? Knowing from first hand experience I can tell you that camaraderie isn’t something that is issued with your uniform and weapon. It is something that can only be achieved through a shared experience. It doesn’t matter if the experience is positive or negative as long as it is shared. Basic training is a systematic break down of a soldier’s built in inhibitions towards different things. You relearn how to eat, fight, work in a team, kill and most importantly take orders without hesitation. If you want to depict a combat situation it is necessary for your actors to experience, albeit watered down, a basic training type regime that prepares them for their roles.
I look forward to the future of war movies as long as we can capture events properly and respectfully. That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind seeing a new Rambo movie also!