Movie Reviews: Veteran’s Day Double Whammy

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, one of the more under-appreciated American holidays. But it is one that reminds us all how lucky we are to be Americans and how thankful we must be to those who fight for that to continue. God bless the troops.

But ignorant me didn’t realize it was veteran’s day until the evening. The ironic part? I had already watched the perfect Veteran’s Day movie…

The Messenger 8/10

This is director Oren Moverman’s first film and he really sets a distinct and interesting directorial style. Perhaps the most overlooked element of this movie is the cinematography. It’s not your Roger Deakins-esque sweeping landscapes, but there are about 6 or 7 incredibly long takes in the movie. Perhaps 5 minutes each, some longer. These are impressive for two reasons: 1) It never feels like its a really long take because you just feel like your there. While there are some really famous long takes like in Atonement or Children of Men, The Messenger’s are less well-known and certainly less showy. 2) The actors are all phenomenal. The long takes basically force the actor’s to be in the moment and are doing very raw and real scenes.

Most of these long takes occur during the surface layer of the movie, where the two former soldiers (or should I say VETERANS) are notifying NOKs (next of kin) of casualties of war. Each time they do one of these scenes it is heart wrenching and beautiful. It also allows for some great cameos from the likes of my new favorite siren Yaya DaCosta and Steve Buscemi.

This tiny film even showed up at the Oscars. Woody Harrelson had a much deserved Supporting Actor nomination, that dare I say it, warranted a win over Christoph Waltz, and Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman were nominated for Original Screenplay. I wish Samantha Morton had snuck in for supporting actress or even Ben Foster for Lead Actor. The whole cast was phenomenal.

This is a movie about dealing with loss and traumatic change. It is fascinating to watch Ben Foster’s Staff Sergeant Will navigate his adaptation to home life. This is definitely one of the movies that I think speaks to what it is to be a veteran.

After I realized it was Veteran’s Day, I felt like I didn’t give the veterans their due, considering I watched a fitting movie without thinking of the cause. So I watched Full Metal Jacket.

Full Metal Jacket 9/10

In case you didn’t already know, Stanley Kubrick is a genius. This is a guys movie through and through, but it also has a lot of heart and a lot of really thoughtful character development.

The film is neatly divided into two parts. The first features Pvt. Joker going through basic Marine training. He and the other recruits are belittled by Gny. Sgt. Hartman, expertly played by R. Lee Ermey. I’ll be honest. If I had to describe what happens in this part… the answer is not too much. But it holds your attention as you watch the bond between Pvt. Joker and the slower Pvt. Pyle grow, all while never letting you forget it’s training. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single scene with just two people talking – they’re always running, jumping, or cleaning.

The second half follows Pvt. Joker to Vietnam. This is where he meets up with the incomparable Animal Mother played by Adam Baldwin (no, not a Baldwin brother, yes, the guy from Chuck and Firefly). Okay, a brief pause on how much I love Adam Baldwin… I think he plays the straight man so well that he allows it to get crazy. His constant scowl is awesome and he plays badass so well. The one thing is I can’t wait until he does something against type. It will rock.

In Vietnam, Joker is forced to evaluate his character and what brotherhood and war means to him. Again, not too much happens… it’s a war, people die, but it somehow manages to be entirely exhilarating.

I can’t speak highly enough of this great ensemble cast, the great direction, and the subtly written screenplay, it’s lone nomination at the big show. If you’ve missed this Kubrick classic, definitely check it out.

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