November Movie Spotlight: Veterans
The topic for the first Monthly Movie Spotlight is Veterans. I went with this topic since it’s fitting because Veteran’s Day is right around the corner. We’ll be taking a look into some of the most influential war films that are set in either the Second World War era, or the conflicts in Vietnam. Films that look into the effect of war and what it could do to the human mind could also be included. Not every film we look at will be based on a true story, what matters most is how the film shows what it was like for the soldiers in conflict. So, for instance, Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” shows the duality of man, and the effect that war can have on certain individuals. Films like that would be something I’d look at as well. For this month we’ll be taking a look at the following: “Apocalypse Now”, “Taxi Driver”, and “Hacksaw Ridge”.
“You talkin’ to me?” Let’s first take a look at “Taxi Driver”. “Taxi Driver” was released in 1976 and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It was yet another film that should’ve given him his Oscar but sadly it didn’t. It is highly regarded as one of his best, if not the best movie that Scorsese ever put out there. The movie is not based on a true story but it sheds light on how hard it can be for veterans after they return from the war. The film follows Robert De Niro’s character, Travis Bickle. Travis Bickle served as a U.S. Marine during the conflicts in Vietnam. Bickle was given an honorable discharge when he was 26 in May of ‘73. The movie was written by Paul Schrader. When you combine his writing with Scorsese’s directing, it allows for this film to really grip your narratively and almost suck you into the picture. That becomes apparent when the film tries to tackle ideas of PTSD, the feelings of loneliness, and isolation from society. The film does all three of those perfectly. When all three of things are combined into the mind of Travis Bickle, it leads to some horrifically violent acts. The film has a very dark theme that really helps you understand the character and what he’s going through. “Taxi Driver” currently has a rating of 8.2/10 on IMDb. It’s a film that I highly recommend everyone sees at least once in their lifetime.
“The horror… The horror…” Next up on our plate is “Apocalypse Now”. “Apocalypse Now” was released in 1979 and has an IMDb rating of 8.4/10. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who famously directed both “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II”. The film won two Oscars, those being Best Cinematography and Best Sound. It was nominated for Best Picture but sadly lost in that category. “Apocalypse Now” is loosely based on the book “Heart Of Darkness” (written by Joseph Conrad). It follows Martin Sheen’s character, Captain Benjamin L. Willard, on his mission into the jungle to try and find and assassinate Col. Kurtz. He’s assigned this task because Col. Kurtz (excellently played by Marlon Brando) was a Colonel for Special Forces who went rogue and now sees himself as a god. One thing this movie does perfectly is show the reality of how those jungles could easily mess with anyone’s head. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much to drive someone to insanity. Despite not being based on a true story, this film is highly regarded as one of the best films ever made with a setting of the Vietnam War. Quite a lot of the scenes in this movie may be hard to watch, but that just adds to the realism and gratuity of war. Just like the previously mentioned film, “Apocalypse Now” is another film that everyone should see at least once in their lives.
“Please Lord, help me get one more. Help me get one more.” Finally, we’ll be taking a glance at “Hacksaw Ridge”. The film has an IMDb rating of 8.1/10. And if I’m being honest, it deserves a 9/10 at the minimum. It follows the unbelievable true story of a combat medic who served during the taking of Hacksaw on the island of Okinawa. His name was Desmond Doss. Doss was portrayed by Andrew Garfield in the movie, and he does an immaculate job. The film was directed by Mel Gibson. One thing that Gibson did great was tell the story through a flashback. The movie opens up on Doss being carried away on a stretcher. It then cuts to his childhood when he was running through the woods with his brother. The movie just continues on by showing us how he grew up, why he enlisted, and then his extremely tough journey through basic training. He was a conscientious objector who refused to hold and carry a gun. Obviously you may be wondering why he would even sign up for the military in the first place. His reasoning was that he couldn’t just wait at home while everyone else was risking their lives to protect their country. Because of this, he blatantly refuses orders from his CO (Commanding Officer) and finds himself in a court case for refusing the orders. When the day of the trial comes, the judge is under the understanding that Doss was wanting to enter some sort of a plea deal for a lesser sentence. This was the case until Doss said that he wanted to enter a “Not Guilty” plea. Even though he openly refused orders, Doss entered this plea because he thought he needed to be heard out, which he did. This segment of the film gives us one of the best quotes from the movie, “While others are taking life, I’ll be saving it.” This quote really sets the stage for Doss’ character and it reflects perfectly when they get to Okinawa and begin conflict. When the characters get to Okinawa and their conflict begins, we get a great look into just how gruesomely brutal war is. When it comes to pure warfare, this film is arguably the most realistic war movie to come out in recent years. Just like how “Saving Private Ryan” shows the brutality of war in the European Theater, “Hacksaw Ridge” shows the terror of the Pacific Theater (The invasion of Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion in the Pacific Theater during WWII). It is during this conflict that Doss proves he is one of the most courageous men to have ever joined the ranks of our great military. During the conflict, Capt. Glover orders everyone to retreat and get down from Hacksaw, Doss didn’t follow that order. Instead, Doss stayed behind. And by doing so, managed to save the lives of 75 wounded soldiers throughout the conflict. Thanks to his feats, we were able to take Hacksaw, which then led to taking Okinawa. Doss is one of the bravest and most selfless people to have ever graced our military. And because of this, he was awarded a Medal Of Honor. The Medal Of Honor, is the most prestigious decoration that can be given to a service member of the military.
All three of these films were up for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards. And all three of these films are absolutely amazing and should be seen by everyone. Veterans Day is a very special holiday and not everybody does something during the day, you may as well take a few hours and watch a film rather than doing nothing. You may also get a better understanding of the effects that war can have on people as well as the brutality of war. You can even acquire more knowledge about major conflicts when watching war films. A few films you should also watch would be the following; “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Last Full Measure”, and “Platoon”. Out of all three of these “honorable mentions”, I’d strongly suggest you check out “Platoon” the most because it is arguably the most realistic depiction of events that could’ve happened in the jungles.