Monday, July 17, 2006


Welcome to the suck indeed.

Swofford's first rate account of time spent in the US Marine Corps scraping the surface of modern war had plenty of things going for it, yet hardly any have been translated onto the silver screen by director Sam Mendes. Such as...

The contrast between Assistant Professor of English Anthony Swofford and his unsophisticated ooh-rah self.

The anger and the irreverence of the author who, as I suggested in my post back in June 2004, has never really come down from his Gulf War I adrenaline rush.

His appreciation that he was at all times a soldier "for the vast fortunes of others" and that none of the rewards of victory would come his way. His account of the sound of rich Arabs passing near their positions, "Mercedes diesel engines racing through the night, their sound like some muffled cosmic laughter." The story of Saudi soldiers that went into town to find Korean and Filipino labourers to dig their defensive emplacements for them. "We don't dig."

His painful admission that he needed the Corps to save him from the "other life I'd fail at", to belong to a group, because no other would accept him.

In this movie Swofford is really no more articulate an observer-commentator than Charlie Sheen in Platoon. With the voice-over used to poor effect, gone are his funniest and most literate observations:

"His eyes looked dead, as though he'd lost them for a few years and found them washed up on a beach."

"He looked like the son of septuagenarians, as though he'd been on a shelf for many years before being born."

"We laugh to obscure the tragedy of our cheap, squandered lives."

I said in my original post that Swofford's ambivalence is near heroic. Here it's simply rather dull and formulaic. No amount of elegant images, interesting textures and period pop tracks are going to make up for this.

Missable. Read the book.

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