The Reeler


December 15, 2006

Home of the Brave

Hopelessly inadequate Iraq drama gunning for worst film of the year

Occasionally, to keep themselves in the headlines, brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher of the British rock band Oasis give controversial interviews instead of writing decent songs. Recently it was Noel's turn to have a quotable moment, and the rock star finally weighed in with a cogent analysis of the situation in Iraq: "The troops, they wanna go, all they want to do is fight!" he told The Sun. "They're soldiers! They're lunatics! They're loving it until they get shot -- and then they're claiming compensation. If you're bothered about getting shot -- here's a thing -- don't join the Army!"

What Gallagher's analysis lacked in sophistication it made up for in audacity and entertainment value. Home Of The Brave -- the first major studio film to address the current war in Iraq -- boasts neither attribute. Instead, it boldly suggests that war is traumatic and that returning soldiers may have trouble adjusting to civilian life. Saddled with a mostly unfortunate cast, propelled by an inane screenplay and directed with the grace and restraint of a Sally Struthers commercial about African famine, it's one of the worst films of the year.

Brave opens in Iraq as a National Guard unit learns they are finally going to be sent home. Jubilant, they go on one last mission to deliver food and medical supplies -- "Some good 'hearts and minds' shit," as the commanding officer puts it, in case the shades of Vietnam weren't clear enough. The mission goes awry, replete with roadside bombs and sniper fire, and though the soldiers have presumably been in Iraq for a while, it's apparently the first time they've faced adversity; they all keep having flashbacks to that same day.

Back home, the characters go their separate ways. Dr. Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson) has a backyard barbeque the day he returns home, and drinks one beer; eagle-eyed viewers may recognize this as ominous, and indeed he is destined for alcoholism. Jamal Atkins (50 Cent), having accidentally shot a civilian and injured his back, becomes increasingly grief-stricken and agitated by his injury. At least that's what I think happens because 50, deviating not a whit from the lack of range he demonstrated in Get Rich Or Die Tryin', approaches his few scenes with anger, a sprinkling of "motherfuckers," and constant threats of violence. (In his final appearance, when told to give up the gun he used to take hostages, he eyes it lovingly and says, "I like my gun," appearing, for once, not to be acting.) Lesser degrees of trauma are awarded to Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel), a recent amputee dealing with the attendant turmoil of a phantom limb, and Tommy Yates (newcomer Brian Presley), who drives around a lot and struggles with menial employment (from gun store employee to movie theater employee, though that doesn't seem like much of a downward spiral).

Hopelessly schematic and relentlessly trite, Home Of The Brave is risible from the start, when its happy troops play a carefree football game on the base, presumably to make the slaughter to come more heartrending. Spokane, Wash., home to the quartet, is apparently one of the least hospitable, most clueless destinations for veterans; last place has to go to the gun store manager who asks Yates if he killed anyone while he was abroad. It's as if the whole town has conspired to bring the veterans misery. And the veterans aren't too sharp a bunch themselves: Biel and Presley accidentally cross paths at the theater where he works and have a quick conversation that could have been cut and pasted from an Air America transcript: "I work at this stupid theater selling these stupid fucking tickets to these stupid movies," Presley complains. "It all seems so unimportant, you know?" "I know exactly what you mean," says Biel. "When I see these people driving their gas-guzzling SUVs and drinking their Frappucinos..." Truly a meeting of twin souls.

Flippancy aside, Home Of The Brave is a hopelessly inadequate response to the burning problem that is Iraq. It refuses to distinguish itself from typical coming-home dramas by choosing to be apolitical, never once wondering why soldiers are in Iraq in the first place; both pro and con sides get facile hearings, but the film refuses to consider whether all this trauma is justified in the first place. Without context as to why this war is different from all other wars, there's nothing to distinguish this specimen besides its incompetence. Still, fans of unintentional comedy should sneak in about 2/3 of the way through for both the dumbest and funniest moment: Samuel L. Jackson driving home drunk on Thanksgiving, spotting some Mexican gardeners at work and wondering why they're working on a holiday, bringing them into his house for the feast, delivering a drunken homily, and then noticing his son has acquired a lip piercing, pinning him to the table and ripping it straight out. Snakes On A Plane never dreamed of such laughs.

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Comments (1)

Who ever wrote this article is an inconsiderate fool who is ignorant to say the least. This movie may not have depicted the reasons for why we are there in the first place, but it sure as hell shows a few of the truths that returing soldiers face at home. It is ignorant to think or say that soldiers want to go over there and all they want to do is fight because thats BULLSHIT!!! Some of us do not have a choice in going over there and even if we did, some of us truly believe in helping out over in Iraq. You say if you dont want to go then don't join the Army, well if every one thiks that way, then we would have a little weak army that can't even defend its own country. If you truly feel that way then get the fuck out of America because if it wasn't for soldiers like us, you would not be here today to enjoy all the freedoms that come to you on a silver platter while we fight to esure you can keep those freedoms. SO GO TO HELL!!!

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