Friday, April 4, 2014

Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed Review

I feel compelled to write a review on Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed. According to Netflix, I had seen the previous Saints and Soldiers movie and given it 5 stars. I have zero recollection of this. Netflix’s “best guess” for how I’d rate SSAC was 4 stars. How wrong you were, Netflix. How wrong you were. It starts out with the standard D-Day invasion imagery. Guys in C-47s; some praying, some looking at pictures of loved ones, and others just sitting there immersed in their own thoughts. When I was flying into Baghdad for the first time, I was immersed-in-own-thoughts-guy, so I connected with them. And that’s about where connections ended for me. (I am literally having to look up the character’s names as I go because they were so forgettable, I’m drawing a blank less than 24 hours later). So… *looks up name* Curtis parachutes into France and is lost. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers, or know anything about WWII history, you know that the airborne assault of occupied France was a total cluster-fuck. I had to keep reminding myself of that, though, because Curtis… Rossi… and… Jones (congratz, movie, you made the name ‘Jones’ utterly forgettable) don’t seem to be all that concerned about being lost behind enemy lines. Curtis is captured by Germans and is about to be executed, apparently, but then Rossi shows up and throws grenades into the crowd, INCHES FROM CURTIS, and manages to kill all the Germans and miss Curtis completely. PHEW! They exchange pleasantries and then find where they are on a map. 12 miles from the drop zone. The two walk a short distance and find a cabin or barn or something and sit down. At some point between meeting each other and the cabin, they meet SGT Jones. I honestly don’t recall when. There was a point when there were two actors pissing me off and then a third showed up. Anyways, they look at the map again and determine that they are 11 miles from the drop zone. So these elite infantrymen needed an EXTENDED breather after just one mile of walking. Honestly, at this point I still thought this would be an OK movie, but then the unthinkable happened. Curtis started reciting the airborne creed. I looked at him like he was insane and so did Rossi and Jones, so I thought, “Ok, so Curtis is bat-shit crazy and these other two have to survive the Germans AND their crazy—“ but then Rossi and Jones joined in! So all three are sitting there reciting the airborne creed while I’m looking at the TV in horror. Why is that so terrible you ask? Well, civilian, I’ll tell you: No normal person in combat gives a shit about that “hooah” bullshit anymore. All that marching in time and singing songs and all that is total crap. You’re just trying to get home in one piece. For instance, during an IED attack, if I had dismounted and, while pulling security around a damaged vehicle, started singing, “First to fight for the right, and to build the Nation’s might, and the Army goes rolling aloooooong! Proud of all we have done, fighting till the battle’s won, and the Army goes rolling aloooooong!” someone would have slapped me and ordered me to get counseling because clearly I’m unstable. Then they all walk THROUGH A FIELD that is SURROUNDED BY TREELINE while LOUDLY DISCUSSING GERMAN CULTURE and show no fear of being shot. Next, the three stop for water and while Rossi is filling his canteen (one canteen of water for every mile walk? This guy is gonna wet the bed) Curtis walks up to him and asks him what he thinks about when he jumps out of a plane. Rossi says he doesn’t think about anything. Curtis creepily says he thinks about his girlfriend, and then stands and walks away. So, like this: Me: *fills glass of water* Weird-ass friend: What do you think about when you go to work in the morning? Me: Uh, nothing, really. Weird-ass friend: I think about my wife. *walks away* Curtis is insane. I think he’s that guy who thinks war is a game (reciting creeds in the midst of battle) and has to constantly tell people that he has a girlfriend. Curtis: What are you doing this weekend? You: Nothing. Why, did you wanna do something? Curtis: No, I have plans with my girlfriend. You can’t come with me and my girlfriend. *walks away* You: … Curtis: *yells back* GIRLFRIEND!
“My girlfriend and I are having sex right now.” “In your head?” “No. In yours.” Anyways, the three come across a group of Germans and attack them. Jones chases an officer into the woods. The German drops his pistol, Jones acts like he’s going to shoot him, and then the camera cuts to Rossi and Curtis who have killed all the other Germans. A gunshot rings out, so we’re left to assume Jones killed the German. He didn’t, though. I failed to mention that that very German officer was talking on the phone with his son at the beginning of the movie, so he was kind of important to the story, or something. So they keep walking and then we see the three men in the cross hairs of a sniper rifle. Somehow, Curtis SENSES that they are being watched, so they all take cover. Then a French resistance fighter steps out and asks them to help her free some of her captured friends. French girl: Please, help? My friends… SGT Jones: Où sont vos amis? Comment pouvons-nous vous aider? Rossi : Wait, you speak French ? SGT Jones : French-Canadian. Rossi : What does she want? SGT Jones: She wants us to help her free her friends. French girl: Please, before it’s too late! Rossi: No! Notice anything? So far, SGT Jones is the only one speaking French. The French girl speaks enough English to ask for help, but he keeps speaking French to her. Rossi and Curtis are able to talk to her. She understands them. But the movie INSISTS that SGT Jones MUST speak French or else the movie can’t continue. Also, I mentioned earlier that French girl had a sniper rifle and was hiding in the bushes. Now, I’ve never had actual sniper training, but I suspect somewhere around day one they would have mentioned that it was unwise to wear a white blouse while on sniping missions.
SGT Jones overrules Rossi and they go ahead and help the French girl. Rossi insists he must know her real name, not her fake name. She refuses. I don’t know why I should care, so I don’t. They come up on the place where her friends are being held and they assault the Germans. Right before the attack, Curtis starts reciting the fucking airborne creed again. French girl, realizing she is shoulder to shoulder with a lunatic, tells him to shush. He apologizes. He immediately continues the creed, as if he’s physically incapable of breathing without reciting the airborne creed. French girl shushes him again. The attack begins and French girl kills two Germans, while Curtis is daydreaming about his girlfriend, or something. Rossi finds the captive French people and is attacked by an unarmed guy not wearing a uniform. German in civilian clothes? French sympathizer? No clue. But he’s kicking the shit out of Rossi, who had moments before bragged about being an epic boxer. Rossi breaks a bottle over his head. Nothing. Rossi hits him in the head with his helmet. Nothing. Rossi punches him in the face a few times and then SGT Jones and Curtis rush in, pull Rossi off the guy and say “He’s dead, Rossi! He’s dead.” What!? How!? From his fists? The bottle and steel helmet didn’t do it, but his bare fists did him in? Then SGT Jones says “Nice covering fire back there, Curtis.” “It wasn’t me, sarge. It was all her.” And they marvel at her ability to hit a grown man from 30 yards away with a bolt-action rifle and a scope. I know why they did this; they were trying to show that she’s at least as badass as the American soldier. I’m cool with that, I just think that topic belongs in its own movie. Make that the plot of movie. Girl gets no respect from her male peers, who she is as good as if not better than. But throwing it in there every now and then is kind of insulting. It reminds me of Tony Dungy before the Colts and Bears played in the Superbowl. He and Lovie Smith were the first black coaches to reach the Superbowl, so that was kind of the theme that year. A reporter asked Smith what he thought that meant and he was all “Hell, yeah! Good for minorities!” and then Dungy was like “It doesn’t mean anything and it won’t mean anything until people stop acting like it’s such a shock that a black person accomplished something.” BAM. So if you think having a scene like that empowers women, I would disagree. Anyways, where was I… Now the Americans and their new French friends are walking and they hear a vehicle approach. They see that it’s an American Jeep, so they flag it down. Now, to this point, whenever the Americans met someone, they issued the challenge “democracy!” and whoever was at the other end of the barrel had to respond with “Lafayette!” or they died, because they were probably Germans in disguise. So SGT Jones, Rossi, and Curtis saw a Jeep miles inland a mere hours into the D-Day invasion and said, “Should we give the challenge?” “Nah, bro.” At this point, I’m thinking “Yup. Germans.” They talk for a bit and then Rossi asks one where he’s from. “Seattle, Washington.” He says and then adds “I feel like the small man on the totem pole.” Rossi instantly got serious and said, “Don’t you mean the low man on the totem pole?” and the German guy laughed it off and walked away. Rossi had a super-worried look on his face, which was the movies way of letting me know that something was wrong. I, of course, already knew that something was wrong, and it wasn’t the Germans. It was Curtis, Rossi, SGT Jones, and Snow White the Sniper Chick.
Then French girl asks to see Rossi’s rifle, which SGT Jones dutifully translates for everyone, because her pointing at it and asking “May I shoot?” went flying over our English-speaking heads. Rossi and French girl have a shooting contest and French girl wins easily, because YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THAT SHE IS EQUAL TO THESE MEN IF NOT BETTER THAN THEM, OKAY!?!?!? A couple things wrong with this: It’s June 6, 1944 and these guys are having a recreational shooting contest while they are miles behind enemy lines. I freak out a little thinking they’ll attract the enemy, but SGT Jones asks the German in disguise if it’s OK and he says there are no Germans nearby, so go for it! The other thing is that while this is going on:
This is happening at the exact same time and it’s not that far away:
Curtis is smiling because those shattered bottles remind him of his girlfriend.
Hey, maybe go help your friends? You think they might need your help? No? Just going to shoot coke bottles? Got it. Eventually they realize the Germans are Germans and interrogate them. The officer says, “I know what Americans are like. You won’t shoot me.” So a French guy shoots his friend. See, it wasn’t an American who shot him, so now the guy has to worry about stuff. So he spills the beans saying they were looking for a French guy who helps the Germans. “Oh, this could be cool!” I say to myself. “Maybe that’s where this movie is going? We’re going to go after this traitor guy?” No, he’s never mentioned again. They keep aimlessly walking around. The group comes across a bunch of Germans who have a tank and a half-track. SGT Jones tells Curtis to stay on top of the hill they’re on so he can shoot down into the half-track. Then they wonder out loud how they’ll take out the tank, and then one of the French guys pulls a magnetic charge out of his pocket, or something. Seriously, they all had small packs, but nothing that could hold one of those huge anti-tank weapons, yet this guy suddenly has one handy. Movie, if you were going to BS me, why not have the French guy say “I have a time machine! I will go into the future and get an M-1 Abrams tank and bring it back!” and then SGT Jones could translate what he just said in English into English for us. But we’ll just go with the anti-tank weapon fitting in Pierre’s pocket. At this point, I was updating Facebook about how terrible this movie was, so I missed something, but these things stood out: Curtis IMMEDIATELY climbs down the hill and goes even further into a valley so that he’s shooting UP at the half-track. At some point he is wounded, but I didn’t see where. The magnetic charge is placed on the tank, it explodes, and does pretty much nothing. SGT Jones climbs on top of the tank and is shot in the chest. Rossi is hit in the shoulder. French girl is not hurt, but all of her friends die. Earlier in the movie, Curtis was day-dreaming about his GIRLFRIEND. We learn that she gave him a used camera as a gift so that he can document the war and share it with her when he comes back. “What if I don’t come back?” he asks. “Then I’ll come get you.” They were going for ultra-romantic, but that line and the way she said it made me think of Curtis’ GIRLFRIEND as this girl:
They deserve each other, really. Curtis dies and his GIRLFRIEND shows up to kiss him goodbye. This is all imagined, of course.
“Love these pearly gates, Saint Peter. They remind me of my girlfriend.” SGT Jones was shot in the heart and is bleeding all over the place. No one is there to help him, but at the end of the movie, we learn that he was found alive and is being treated. SGT Jones is a Christian and his dad yelled at him saying “God doesn’t want you to die in a foxhole!” so he remembers his words, which is all he needs, apparently. Medics are optional. Rossi is found by the German officer that SGT Jones let live earlier. The officer wants to kill Rossi, but recalls SGT Jones’ kindness, so he helps Rossi. Rossi wakes up and they spend 15 minutes exchanging pictures and kind of talking, though this guy only knows a few English words and Rossi knows zero German words, so it’s just 15 minutes of them awkwardly staring at each other. Somehow in this 15 minutes of awkwardness, Rossi becomes friends with the German, who dies while Rossi is asleep. He was wounded, but I didn’t know that. I guess I was updating Facebook. Rossi is found by some Americans and brought to an aid-station. There he sees French girl. She kisses him for no reason and then whispers her real name into his ear. I guess the movie wanted to troll me by saying “HAHA! You don’t get to know her real name!” but ‘French girl’ suits me just fine. This movie tried to do too much. It wanted to be Band of Brothers, but only spent 20 minutes building that theme. It tried to be about self-sacrifice for the good of your fellow man like Saving Private Ryan, but only spent a few scenes doing that. Then it wanted to be a love story, but only spent a short time on that theme. It wanted to empower the female viewer, but didn’t spend enough time on that. It wanted to make us see the similarities between the Americans and the Germans like ‘Into the White’, but didn’t spend enough time on that. The guy who I thought was the main character was killed ¾ of the way through the movie. In trying to do everything, Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed accomplished nothing. It also felt like it was written by a guy who did all of his research by doing a google image search of “WWII airborne soldiers” and just trying to get the uniforms and haircuts right. I kept thinking of this poem from Sassoon Siegfried, a WWI veteran: The Bishop tells us: 'When the boys come back 'They will not be the same; for they'll have fought 'In a just cause: they lead the last attack 'On Anti-Christ; their comrades' blood has bought 'New right to breed an honourable race, 'They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.' 'We're none of us the same!' the boys reply. 'For George lost both his legs; and Bill's stone blind; 'Poor Jim's shot through the lungs and like to die; 'And Bert's gone syphilitic: you'll not find 'A chap who's served that hasn't found some change. ' And the Bishop said: 'The ways of God are strange!' The first stanza is written from the perspective of your typical civilian. The only thing he knows about war is what he’s heard in stories, read in the newspaper, or taken from propaganda posters. The second stanza is reality. There are no soldiers proudly singing songs in the heat of battle. Guys are getting completely fucked up. Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed just didn’t seem to understand that.