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A Different Kind of War

by Ross Douthat
A review of Lone Survivor

The cliché is that American war films fall into two categories: movies about World War II, which are patriotic, heroic, celebratory, and confident in both the mission and the men, and movies about Vietnam, which are pessimistic, brutal, critical of the mission, and inclined to portray the men as victims, lunatics, or both. And the many exceptions notwithstanding, the cliché gets something right: There is a paradigmatic World War II movie (The Longest Day, The Guns of Navarone) and a paradigmatic Vietnam movie (Platoon, Casualties of War), and everyone can recognize the difference.

As of now, I think it’s fair to say we have a paradigmatic movie for our post–Cold War wars as well — for the age of Somalia and Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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