It’s 10:30p.m. but I wanted to sneak in a little hello to everyone. We took my daughter to see Alpha in theaters today and one of the previews that caught my eye is for a sequel to Unbroken. My husband and I watched Unbroken when it was in theaters and I was surprised today to learn there was a sequel, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, coming out in September. Based on seeing the first movie, I have no doubt this movie will likely do well in theaters. More importantly, I hope it does well for expanding conversations about trauma, post-traumatic stress, and resiliency.
I realize I’m not always great at sharing my reactions–in a timely manner–regarding the military genre films and shows I’ve seen, but there are some I truly care for. To give you a sense of my (sometimes) poor follow through, I started a blog entry on watching Megan Leavey September 5, 2017 and I never posted it! I liked the movie but I am glad I made the decision to not see it in theaters due to the explosion scenes. The reason I never finished my post about seeing the movie had more to do with researching comparable war genre films than discussing how it felt to see Iraq come alive on the screen again. Sometimes, the worst thing I do is go down a rabbit hole of researching something so I feel I can talk about a subject with some authority, and I struggle to find what point of researching is a good stopping point.
I know trauma is something we all go through at some point, although not all of us will face trauma related to combat experiences. This issue is part of why I wanted to look at the popularity of different recently produced war movies and my unfinished draft was intended a starting point for a conversation about what Americans look for in war movies and what conversations and representations we really need regarding war and resiliency after traumatic events. So diving in, here’s what I wrote, without any editing:
This past Labor Day weekend my husband and I sat down to watch ‘Megan Leavey.’ Anyone who has followed my writing for awhile knows I wanted to watch this film but I also recognized–given my background–watching it in a movie theater would be stressful. What follows is a very simple reflection regarding the movie. I am not a film critic, but I am hopeful in sharing my sentiments others can see why I see the film has significant value as an education tool regarding alternative deployment experiences.
War films are not new as a film genre but the growing divide between those who served and others, through choice or circumstances, who haven’t makes the type of film more worthy of elevated discussion. I am fairly certain the movie does not attract the same kind of audience as drawn to American Sniper and Lone Survivor but it is important to look at some data before I continue my conversation (all pieces of information and visuals are taken directly from IMBD’s website).
Here’s some updated info on Megan Leavey (again straight from IMDb)
IMDb lists $350,126,372 comparatively as the Gross USA for “American Sniper” and $125,095,601 for “Lone Survivor.” I think it’s important to notice the male centric movies are both rated “R” and labeled as “Action, Biography, Drama” while “Megan Leavey” is labeled “Biography, Drama, War” with a PG-13 rating. Hopefully, the latter movie will creep up in popularity with American viewers.
I truly enjoyed seeing how Megan’s life pre-Marine Corps, deployment, and transition out of active duty was handled on-screen. I haven’t seen the movie since to have better notes on hand, but there are details that stuck with me. We learn why she joined, always an important factor in my mind. We see this moment on deployment (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie) where she receives criticism for sharing her MP dog’s name to Iraqis during a vehicle search. We see her in group therapy post separation that is invaluable to reducing the stigma regarding mental health. There is this trauma shown in the film that created individual brokenness on a physical, mental, and emotional level but more importantly, there is a representation that empowerment is critical. Empowerment helps forge resiliency. I don’t think that reality can be stressed enough.
Lastly, it was truly important to me for a female Marine (and her struggles) to receive such public recognition in film. Our nation needs to see women serving–and the trials of their service and veteran transition–as a normal life experience like it does for the men that join our military service branches. It opens doors for understanding war, camaraderie, traumatic events, and recovery. It allows women to be formally recognized for their sacrifices and achievements. That representation is crucial.