Interpretations: Popular Military Films & War Portrayals

American Sniper came out recently; I haven’t seen it yet. There is significant discussion going on about the portrayal of Chris Kyle especially considering that parts of his memoir, which I also have not read, have come under fire as well. Currently in my Women of Courage class, we are discussing how women are portrayed in military films, not specially war films, and I know this film, interpretively, would be a great addition to our discussion.

We recently discussed the article, Bombshells on Film: Women, Military Films, and Hegemonic Gender Ideologies by Stacie R. Furia and Denise D. Biebly; while it was only written in 2009, numerous other military films were produced recently that add another dimension to the conversation. Among them are Unbroken (2014), The Imitation Game (2014), Lone Survivor (2013), and now, American Sniper (2014). I appreciate the fact Unbroken delves quite deep into the psychological trauma of prisoners of war. Louis Zamperini passed away last year but I feel his story was told in such a way, he would be proud of all the people who recreated those experiences in such an accessible form. My husband has also hooked me on the show, Sherlock, so it was wonderful to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turning in The Imitation Game. I was quite disheartened to hear he was subjected to chemical castration for being gay. While I have seen the first two movies, wrapping my head and heart around Lone Survivor and American Sniper is a bit more difficult.

I saw a tiny portion of Lone Survivor when my husband watched it at home. I left the room. I don’t know if I could stomach watching the film. The researcher in me knows I should try, but then again, I am no ordinary researcher. I worked in Iraq and was privy to intelligence regarding our enemy KIA’s (killed in action) and friendly KIA’s, to include my officer, Captain Sean Brock. It’s one thing to view war through the eyes of a civilian spectator in a movie theater and another one entirely to be in the middle of it. Granted, I wasn’t kicking in doors and I didn’t serve as a sniper, but living in urban combat zones with some of the modern conveniences (phone centers, fast food restaurants, etc.) presents some unique moments of hyper vigilance and complacencies.

Other films not mentioned in the paper include Stateside (2004), Jarhead (2005), and The Hurt Locker (2008). The Hurt Locker did not interest me and Stateside was less than memorable. However, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jarhead with my junior Marines when it opened in theaters. I bought several of them tickets to the film and we crammed ourselves in the last few seats upfront. It was one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen despite what I felt was a hurried ending. My favorite scene is where they are playing football in MOPP (mission oriented protective posture).

I looked up what other movies provide interpretations of military service. Oddly enough, I found a film called Camp X-Ray (2014), which I’ve never heard of before. Kristen Stewart plays the main character who serves as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, but it’s hard to imagine her as a soldier. I know my opinion is colored by the fact I am not a fan of the Twilight series; maybe the actors and actresses from those movies have gone on to better roles,but I find it awkward that she always looks disgruntled.
camp x ray

Maybe I’ll watch the film so I’m making a fair assessment of the movie and her skills. However, if I had my pick of actresses, I think Jennifer Lawrence, Troian Bellasario, or Ellen Page would have been great choices as leading actresses. I can think of most female Marines I’ve encountered and I could easily seeing those three women, based on the characters they’ve played, being believable as servicewomen.

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