With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
That’s right. Another Tuesday night, another movie night with my girl.
Popcorn, my Sea-Bands (for hand-held nonsense due to my motion sickness) and a Shiner Bock covertly snuck in.
Over two hours later, I walk away thoroughly impressed with Bradley Cooper’s performance. Yes, he gained weight, adopted an accent and grew a full beard. But give the same parameters for Denzel Washington and you will still get the routine mannerisms of Denzel Washington (dead-eyed looks, cocked head, strut). Cooper was unrecognizable from previous performances, internalizing his pain I was reminded of Russell Crowe or Gary Oldman and how they transform themselves beyond the physical. When one of his buddies is injured beside him in Iraq, Cooper’s character refuses to acknowledge the severity, offering a distant “you’re okay” almost unable to look at him, and admit he failed in keeping his fellow soldier safe.
He carries that weight of savior hood around him like heavy chains. Even back home from each of his four tours, he is reminded of the burden, the things he has seen and done, and cannot escape. The more he tries to protect and control those around him, the more vacant and lost he becomes.
The clarity of those battle scenes; a hero, a villain and a mission, clashes with the rudderless domestic narrative. I particularly liked how director Clint Eastwood shot the battle scenes, showing the tension and confusion of an unorthodox war. How soldiers on the ground defend themselves when they are under attack; in the dark, in a sandstorm, and in a nearly-indestructible military vehicle.
I left the theater with a new appreciation for a veteran’s mind, juggling life and death simultaneously. The split decisions they make, the presence of mind to complete tasks, and stay alive when it appears hopeless. It’s no wonder that precise acumen for survival mentally disfigures them in “the real world”.
I felt the film missed an opportunity to further explore the downward spiral of the veteran. Characteristics of PTSD are shown (hyper vigilance and reliving the war over and over again) but they are not given the same appreciation as the Iraq war scenes in Fallujah and Sadr City. For me the film appeared to be a failed attempt to show the schizophrenia between a soldier’s home life and war life.