Screengrab: The Military, the Movies and The Message

RICHARD LUTZ  sees it’s  all War, War and more War on the tv movie list this week. But what kind of war film is another matter.

Now, where were we before calamity struck in the cyper-universe and dismantled this website thus depriving the A-list intelligentsia from vital e-reading?

Oh yes, the movies you cannot miss this week on the flatscreen of your choice.

So, here goes: it seems you can’t move for war films. But unless you have been living on one of Jupiter’s outer moons for the last 50 years, you may have noticed that among the gunsmoke, the steel grey battleships and the  7th cavalry, there sometimes is an inkling of a mini-message lurking about. Or even a subversive one that no studio boss knows about- or may not want to know about.

Full Mestal Jacket (Tues,ITV4, 22.00) peers into the world of brainwashed raw recruits who have been served up for the jungle slaughter that was Vietnam. Stanley Kubrick directs a hard movie, a tough movie where the young soldiers are stripped of their individuality to protect a rather dubious debacle in South East Asia.

The switch from grim training to warfare is striking as the toughened up soldiers, led by Matthew Modine, tackle the moral implications of being trained to fight a battle that is not understood. The only thing, actually, to understand is to survive. Kubrick’s moral pitch is modern warfare really makes no sense and those who question it may end up sticking a  rifle down their throats and ending it all. Whew

American ambivalence to US power comes under scrutiny the next day too with Fort Apache (Wed, BBC2, 13.25). Director John Ford directs this 1948 beauty with Henry Fonda and John Wayne. Ford, the crusty old seadog, was a man who questioned American values and there is no value more sensitive than how the American westward thrust after the Civil War wiped out the Native American nations.

Fonda is an arrogant narrow minded cavalry boss who won’t compromise with the Apaches and goes headlong into a losing battle. Wayne is, interestingly, the man who wants to approach the Indian problem on a human level. Ford’s sympathetic look at Apache life must have raised a studio eyebrow or two. But you didn’t mess with Ford or Wayne when they brought in the profits. Fort Apache, by the way is the first part of the so called Cavalry Trilogy with The Duke. The other two, also great moves are She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande.

Moving on and Syriana (Thurs, ITV1, 22.35) is a George Clooney affair that peeks into the morass that is the Middle East. There’s a missing missile, the CIA and, of course, oil. Corruption and raw power are investigated to show that all is not well in the vastness between the Med and the Indian sub continent. Clooney is the star and Matt Damon helps out. The plot may get over heated but the message is clear- anyone involved in the Mid East shenanigans (including all those happening as I write) are in deep deep waters indeed.

From the mess of the Mid East to Stiff Upper Lip Land. The week rounds itself out with In Which We Serve (Fri, BBC2 13.45). This is black and white sheer heroics from mid war 1942. It has Noel Coward’s hand all over it- director, star and even composer The British wartime Ministry  of Information oversaw the naval propaganda plot about how the Brits got stuck in when the going got tough to create a visceral muscle of national unity. Our forebearers  went through this in many ways and if there is a single message here, it is: We have no choice but to win.’ No debate, no questions asked. Tough stuff indeed in a week of war films.