I only watched this film is because of Abbie Cornish. Her most famous role yet is that of a romantic lead, but here she both plays lover and fighter. As Michelle, she’s known the boys in this film since third grade, and she won’t stop reminding Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Philippe) that when the both of them get in trouble. When Brandon tries to road trip to DC to petition his , it’s her car he’s using and she’s on the driver’s seat. Some detractors might see her performance as a bit Aileen Wuornos, but she’s very convincing as a tequila drinking, pool playing tough girl, and I’m a sucker for characters like hers.
I guess I shouldn’t judge a movie that I’ve only seen in parts, but many clichés are scattered in this film. For example, a hoe-down scene when almost everything that happens seems like it’s part of a checklist of what Texan veterans do. I have to remember that these characters are based on living persons, so I don’t know how racist these real people really are. And God forbid one or these characters weren’t written as Sorkinian deus-ex-machinae. It’s better to leave characters to speak and acting in their own vernacular. However, there’s no consistent rawness in the script nor in the acting. The said scene, and others after that, portrays them as textbook racists and shooting, fighting drunks doesn’t work, and instead of making the audience pity or deride them, the film makes me feel like it’s questioning my intelligence. When Brandon makes his way to DC, everyone he meets and everyone who tries to call him back seem more like allegories instead of fully fleshed-out characters. Those characters’ terribly delivered speeches are accompanied by slow electric guitars I’ve heard in every Iraq war film. I reacted more ambivalently to the way the male characters have flashbacks of their tour in Iraq, which again are very clichéd but the actors unhesitatingly go to those dark places. By reenacting those traumatic moments in their home country, it kinda lessens the images of the atrocities these soldiers have done to the Iraqis. Because we needed more of those.
P.s. Lame actor trivia/shpiel: In the early 2000’s, I had this opinion that Philippe was gonna be the best actor of his generation, seeing his roles and performances were showy in the late 90’s and all. He still did a lot of interesting stuff after that time, but he’s two inches short of being an A-lister. Philippe was born in 1974, just like Christian Bale, Michael Shannon, Joaquin Phoenix and Leonardo di Caprio. All five have different career trajectories, only Christian and Leo went ‘big’ so far as well as competed for the same roles, and none of them look like they were born the same year.