Hollywood and the reality of warfare

By Jamie Lim

Please choose from the following genres: action, adventure, comedy, crime, drama, romance or thriller. Can’t make up your mind? What about all of the above?

Military-based films can be produced for any of genre and sometimes can include elements from multiple. Since the military is a huge part of the United States, these films attempt to portray every aspect in the military.

“I definitely enjoy them,” Tomball senior Cadet Travis Howard said, “but at the same time, some of them are hard to watch. ‘Captain America’ is fun to watch. ‘Black Hawk Down’ is difficult to watch; same with ‘Saving Private Ryan.’”

Frank Manchel, author of “Film Study: An Analytical Bibliography,” said there are two ways the armed forces are represented in films: war and military.

A war film is when troops partake in battle. This type of film showcases military action that is influenced by actual military combat. A military film focuses on peace. It portrays troops whose intentions are to preserve the peace.

“Historically, a lot of military movies were about a specific battle, but these days it’s more like the day in the life of a soldier,” Flower Mound junior and Cadet Mikey Moulden said.

These films are obviously influenced by the military, but do they portray the military accurately? Cadet Mark Cerf, a junior from Denver, Colo., said he finds them entertaining but not too accurate — especially when it comes to actual warfare.

“A lot of movies put a little bit too much emphasis on the excitement of violence,” Cerf said.

“Any type of warfare is a very serious and somber matter. It shouldn’t be taken light-heartedly, and violence shouldn’t be seen as something so small because you are, ultimately, dealing with people’s lives.”

Nevertheless, warfare is warfare. And with warfare, death usually follows shortly after.

When a death occurs in any film, it ultimately tugs at the audiences’ heartstrings. It tugs even harder when a favorable character is killed, like Bubba Blue in “Forrest Gump.”

Death is usually not considered to be a good thing in reality, but many troops believe that in a military film it can be portrayed as heroic.

Even though death makes a military film more realistic, Howard said films would never be able to re-enact the smell that soldiers encounter during battle.

Even with military films lacking many aspects from actual military life, there are some films that get the approval of many troops. For example, Moulden, Cerf and Howard agreed that “Black Hawk Down” was a good representation.

“It shows you that war’s not pretty,” Howard said. “When the rounds start flying past you, it’s about the man next to you and getting him out of there. It’s not about yourself anymore. It’s about your brother.

One of the most admirable things people find in the military is the brotherhood. Many films take full advantage of showcasing this aspect and Cerf said Hollywood seemed to be doing a good job.

“When movies portray soldiers really sticking with each other no matter what, that’s very accurate,” Cerf said. “You never ever want to leave anyone on the battlefield, whether they’re dead, alive or wounded. We always want to bring everyone home with us at any costs.”

Brotherhood may be prominent in military-based films, but there is usually one outstanding war hero.

“A lot of times, people that have served and have won medals for valor, bravery or courage tend to not see themselves as something special but just doing their job,” Cerf said. “That’s what they’re trained to do and that’s what they did.”

One movie that highlights violence, brotherhood and heroes is “Pearl Harbor.” If war isn’t already bad enough, romance gets tossed into the plot, complicating everything.

However, the romance didn’t bother many troops. They felt that it was a way to show the audience that troops are people too, and that they have many emotions.

“All of the time, you hear about a lot of privates who get married right before they leave,” Moulden said.

“They’ll be gone from six to 12 months at a time before they get to see each other again. Long-distance relationships are really difficult to maintain, and a lot of times they just break down.”

Military based films may exaggerate substantial elements of the military in reality, but that’s the point. They are made to entertain people, which Howard is not too bothered by.

“That’s all they are ­­— they’re entertainment,” Howard said, “It’s a good story, has a good plot, a good hero — what’s not to like about it?”