The Movie Club

About Those War Movies
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 2 2007 6:58 PM

The Movie Club

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Comrades,

Just a quick note to expand on a point in my opening post: When I say I "don't like" war movies, it's a kind of polemical shorthand for a set of complex ambivalences about the genre. I'm not petulantly tossing aside all representations of mass conflict like some unfavorite flavor of ice cream, and I'm certainly not trying to skim over movies about war in order to focus on those with jollier subject matter. (Aside to Wesley: Children of Men doesn't strike me as a war movie, despite the climactic siege sequence. A road movie about a band of rebels, it seems too peripatetic, and insufficiently claustrophobic, to belong to the Spam-in-a-can tradition.)

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A more precise way of stating the problem might be to say that a certain kind of war picture has become invisible to me, through some combination of the genre's ubiquitousness and its continuous upping of the visual-gore ante. Peering evermore closely into the foam-rubber (or, more likely, computer-generated) viscera of the latest exploding soldier is not helping me to understand or feel anything new about politics or patriotism or bravery or life, and I can't be the only one who feels that way. I wonder if the altered mental state this kind of war movie produces, and the subsequent relief upon stepping from the theater into the peaceful street, may be doing its part to render war itself invisible, however against the director's wish.

Of course, this could say as much about my own problems as those of the war movie. But isn't what we bring into the theater as important as what movies bring to us?

Yours,
Dana

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

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