Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane (1997) Navy SEALS, Military Life, Sexism and a Whole Bunch of Unanswered Questions

Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane is an extremely entertaining movie. I just need to enumerate who’s in it and you might be tempted to watch it if you haven’t done so yet. Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, James Caviezel, Anne Bancroft. The story is interesting if somewhat implausible but certainly providing us with some food for thought about different things.

Lt Jordan O’Neil (Demi Morre) is an ambitious young woman. She would like to climb the career ladder no matter what it takes. Being pretty sure this will need some combat experience she is willing to go the whole way. Only women aren’t really allowed to undergo combat training. Senator DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) is equally ambitious. Sensing that supporting the admission of women to the Army might boost her career she does everything to get permission to let a test candidate, G.I. Jane, undergo training. To make matters worse the people against her and this undertaking decide to choose the hardest possible training, namely the Navy SEAL training.

The selection of the right candidate takes some time. Senator DeHaven doesn’t want a masculine looking woman, she doesn’t want a homosexual woman either as this could undermine the exercise. When she sees as picture of beautiful Jordan O’Neil, she knows, it is her and no other that she wants for this test run.

What follows is one of those stories that show us how a resilient human being can fight even the most adverse circumstances, overcome weakness and prove her strength.

Jordan undergoes the SEAL training and where many men fail, she excels. She makes it through the initial week and the following weeks. During this time she is closely supervised, challenged and in the end also brutalized by the Master Chief (Viggo Mortensen). Of all the boot camp bastards that we get to see in this type of training focused movies he is by far one of the most complex and interesting. Not just because he quotes poetry but also because he changes considerably and ultimately because he isn’t a bad sort at all. He has to be mean. Sure, there is this one scene in which he overdoes it but doesn’t he have his reasons?

The movie shows 2/3 boot camp and 1/3 actual combat. This las part is highly fictionalized and serves mainly the purpose to show how worthy a soldier Jordan has become.

The movie is a bit on the sentimental side and – yes – it is stretching quite a few things but I like it and have watched it before. I think Demi Moore was a terrific choice and it is one of Viggo Mortensen’s best roles. Also Anne Bancroft as a real b**** is great.

Does it say much about women in the military? It certainly does look at the adversity a woman would have and does face, it looks at the prejudices and preconceptions. Jordan has to start to do it exactly like the men before she is only half accepted. It shows also that it isn’t only that men think women can’t do it but that men are constantly tested by the presence of women. Temptation as well as compassion play into it. Seeing a wounded female soldier might be harder to take than seeing a wounded man. And what If she has to rescue you and she is a slender woman while you are a big, bulky man, weighing twice as much?

My top favourite scene is when a bunch of soldiers, one of them of African-American origin, discuss if a woman should be admitted to this type of training and the African-American soldier points out that his grandfather was only allowed a s a cook during WWII. It is obvious that the prejudices African.Americans had to face were similar to those women had and have to endure.

Don’t watch it, if you are looking for answers, watch it when you want great entertainment and a probably very realistic look at the Navy SEALS training.

I am left with quite a lot of questions. Are there women today in the Navy SEALS? Is it in any way a realistic movie or not at all? Why exactly did the Master Chief mistreat her like this?

Answers anyone?

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633 Squadron (1964) British Air Combat Movie that Would Make a Great Remake

The British movie 633 Squadron is an entertaining air combat movie. It has a little bit of everything in it. It is part adventure story, war movie , suicide mission and romance. Although it is not great it has a lot of potential and would be a great choice for a remake. None of the actors is remarkable, exchanging them wouldn’t do any harm and the special effects could do with some revamping as well. Still if you have a special interest in aircraft you might want to watch it as it gives you the possibility of seeing a real Mosquito (as far as I know only one is the real thing, the others were remade). The Mosquito was a funny, enduring little plane and is one of the rare made of wood. When it entered production in was one of the fastest operating aircraft.

“In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again…” (Hermann Göring)

File:Mosquito 600pix.jpg

The story of 633 Squadron resembles the story of the much better movie The Dam Busters. A group of pilots has to go on a secret mission and drop bombs on a German rocket fuel factory that is based in Norway. The Norwegian resistance does also play a part in it and the squadron leader falls in love with the sister of one of their members. The squadron is a typical war movie squadron that pushes diversity to the limits. We see British, Irish, Scottish, Australian and Indian members. The accents are quite enjoyable if you go for that kind of detail. The mission itself is quite gripping and suspenseful. The losses were, as could be expected, extremely high.

633 Squadron is loosely based on a true story which makes it interesting to watch, still I would say if you want to see two really great British WWII air combat movies, go for The Battle of Britain or the aforementioned The Dam Busters.

Les femmes de l’ombre aka Female Agents (2008) Women in the Resistance

Not every slick-looking movie with good-looking actresses on the French Resistance is a good movie. Unfortunately not or Les femmes de l’ombre would have been great. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad it’s just not great. If you want an entertaining period drama, this is your movie (ok, there are a some torture scenes that dampen the experience a bit but nice clothes and make-up make up for it). It’s a little bit like Black Book aka Zwartboek but less convincing. The theme would have been interesting and worth dedicating a movie to.

Based on true events, it follows the story of Louise Desfontaine (Sophie Marceau), a sniper with the French Resistance. When things heat up in France she leaves for England and joins the SOE. One day she is contacted by an agent who happens to be her brother Pierre (Julien Boisselier) whom she suspected of being a collaborator. He hires her and four other women to rescue a British spy who has been captured in France by the Germans. The Germans aren’t aware of his identity and think he is German. The women will have to team up, two disguised as nurses, two as exotic dancers (yes, you will see them topless, it’s a French movie) and the fifth will place bombs under German cars.

The five women are a composite group, one is an ex-prostitute (Julie Depardieu), one the ex-girlfriend (Marie Gillain) of the Nazi officer (Moritz Bleibtreu) who tries to hunt them down.

What at first looks like a success soon goes awry. Louise’s brother get’s caught and we all know what that means.

The women go back to Paris on another mission and here things goe definitely very wrong as one gets captured and immediately crumbles under torture (one finger nail off and she spits it all out).

I can really not say why exactly I wasn’t too convinced. Because I have seen the brilliant L’armée du crime aka The Army of Crime before? Or some of the movies on Nordic Resistance that are truly good? I think it is in part due to a slightly off-key cast. Every woman wears heavy make-up which is nice, only Sophie Marceau has to look somewhat stony faced and unattractive (she isn’t successful, she’s too beautiful to look unattractive). I think the producers and directors were aware they would be criticized for their choice of too pretty women and tried to balance this out by not showing a heavily made up Sophie Marceau. She is the sniper after all… Why, if they didn’t want her to look her very best, did they not cast another actress? Because she is a great actress? I always suspected her to be far from accomplished, and she really isn’t too good. I would have preferred her to look as beautiful as she can and not try so hard to look efficient. (I’m thinking of Demi Moore as G.I. Jane who was much more convincing.) I think you can actually be cold-blooded without looking it. And I am not a big fan of Moritz Bleibtreu either. At least not in supposedly serious roles (I have seen him in German movies in which I found him very good). Julien Boisselier and the other four actresses are very good, especially Julie Depardieu and Marie Gillain.

Les femmes de l’ombre aka Female Agents is entertaining, just don’t expect to much of it. If you want the real deal, watch L’armée du crime.

Most Memorable Vietnam Vet in War Movies

I actually had a discussion yesterday about this topic. Which is the most memorable Vietnam vet in any movie? De Niro in Taxi Driver? Ron Kovic in Born on the 4th of July? Or even Rambo? The one I prefer is Jacknife. He is the most touching and likable. But I think not necessarily the most memorable. The most memorable for me is de Niro in Taxi Driver. Anyway, I want to hear what you think, which is the most memorable and which one did you like the most?

Here are a few to refresh your memory (and yes, indeed, Robert de Niro is certainly THE Vietnam vet actor)

Robert de Niro in Jacknife

Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver

Robert de Niro in The Deer Hunter

Sylvester Stallone as Rambo: First Blood

Tom Cruise (in one of his best roles) in Born on the 4th of July

Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage in Birdy

James Cann in Gardens of Stone

Jack Dunne in Heroes

Tom Laughlin in Billy Jack

James Woods in The Visitors

Bruce Willis in In Country

John Lithgow in Distant Thunder

One little confession, I haven’t seen the last four… Did I miss something?

All Quiet on the Western Front 1979 TV Version

I am not immediately against a movie just because it is a remake. I think that in some cases, even when it isn’t necessarily better or as good as the original, it can add something. It is interesting to see how someone else interprets scenes, how they are altered or accentuated. All this is just to tell you that I wasn’t biased when I watch the TV version of All Quiet on the Western Front. After having watched it, I am not even disappointed as I didn’t expect anything. No, I’m not disappointed, I’m horrified. This is a shockingly bad movie that manages to take the depth out of all the profound scenes that you can see in the original. The filming is oddly tacky and the acting is so bad that I was wondering if the actual aim wasn’t a parody. I have hardly ever seen so many people die in such a melodramatic way outside of an opera stage. I was surprised the actors weren’t holding banners stating “I’m dead”  at the end of each scene. How ostentatious should you be? Unless you want to make your public feel like total idiots subtlety would be what you should strive for. This message seems to have been lost on the director. What I can really not forgive is how a scene like that fabulous “boots scene” was altered to total insignificance.

I must at least say one good thing, Ernest Borgnine as Kat and Ian Holm as  Himmelstoss were convincing. And all the others? It was quite daring to cast Richard Thomas as Paul Bäumer but to have him do so many voice overs reminiscent of his time as John-Boy…Bah.

If you care to see a movie of All Quiet on the Western Front stick with Lewis Milestone’s 1930 original. It truly is a masterpiece. If you are not into silent movie feel or very old movies you will have to wait for the next remake which is due in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe (no, it isn’t a convincing choice). Hopefully it will be much better than what I had to endure last night.

For those of you who still want to know what it is all about here’s a very brief summary:

Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s outstanding eponymous novel, All Quiet on the Western Front shows how an enthusiastic young German school boy volunteers to participate in WWI. Once he ‘s in the trenches and experiences the horror of trench warfare and sees his friends die all around him, he soon faces utter disillusionment.

Rating? Do I have to? 2/5 But only because I am kind.

Here are my thoughts on To Remake or not to Remake

Here is a short scene. It is rather one of the better ones.