I don’t subscribe to the belief that Hollywood chooses its war movie subjects strictly for the purpose of demoralizing America and making us look bad. Although you wouldn’t always know from the results, movies are put together largely with the aim of maximizing dramatic tension. Ethically complex stories will always be dramatically promising for the same reason Hamlet couldn’t make up his mind.
But some things do make you go hmm. There have been fifteen Congressional Medals of Honor awarded in this new century, and yet the soldier who will apparently be featured in two different Hollywood films is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Separately, Fox Searchlight has acquired movie rights to “America’s Last Prisoner Of War,” written by the late Michael Hastings, with Todd Field (“In The Bedroom”) attached to direct and produce. Hastings’ story was published in 2012 by Rolling Stone while Bergdahl was still a prisoner of the Taliban.
Either or both of these movies could be good. Bigelow has demonstrated over many years her talent for extracting drama from hard men in government service, irrespective of setting (as in the beloved cop/surfer classic Point Break) or even nationality (in the underrated Soviet submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker). Todd Field made the critically acclaimed In the Bedroom and the excellent shamesploitation picture Little Children, which featured not only a showstopping comeback performance by seventies icon Jackie Earle Haley but some spectacularly good Will Lyman narration. It’s also notable that the late Michael Hastings’ Rolling Stone article on Bergdahl, though it was written two years ago and with no certainty that Bergdahl would ever be released, seems to have held up in just about all of its particulars — which happens less often with news pieces than you might think.
Still, you have to wonder. For the last few weeks there’s been a raging debate over whether Bergdahl was worth the five Taliban prisoners released in exchange for him. Do we now have to argue about whether he’s worth the inevitable millions in film production tax credits the taxpayers of New Mexico will end up paying to make the Land of Enchantment look like Afghanistan?