Going in with very low expectations – I’m not very fond of the director, it reviewed poorly, killed its star’s career and lost the studio money – I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly enjoyable it was. Demi Moore delivers one of the best performances of her career in one of those remarkably physically demanding roles for which men are applauded and women – should another dare to take on such a role after the flak Moore received – are often ridiculed. In the hands of a less talented actress her toughness and imposing physique might become male-impersonation clichés – see Vasquez in Aliens – but Moore remains utterly feminine throughout.
As a result of some dubious political machinations, Moore’s Lieutenant O’Neill is hand-picked to undergo the punishing SEAL training in an attempt to fully integrate women into the Navy. No one expects her to succeed – except the audience, naturally.
The training sequences of which much of the film is comprised are all handled well and never outstay their welcome or become repetitive, and even when they stretch credibility – as in the punishingly violent sequence where Moore is outright attacked – it’s hugely satisfying dramatically when you consider the attacker’s motives.
Things become very silly and highly implausible once a training mission turns into the real thing, but it remains enjoyable. It may feel like it was tacked on from a different movie but few chop-shop efforts work so well.
It bears discussion too: it raises very serious questions about women in combat, and is deceptively balanced in the time it gives both sides of the argument – even if you have to use your brain to spot the “anti” moments. Sure women can do it, but should they be allowed to? During her brutal interrogation the men crack. Would they have done so if a man had been suffering? It offers no answers, it’s just happy to present Moore’s story without calling anyone villains.
It’s not all great though. It’s filmed in a slightly annoying style that seems determined not to make any use of the widescreen format, but that’s fairly typical of both Scott brothers so I can’t say it was unexpected. Also the supporting characters are often straight out of a cartoon. Again, typical for the genre.
Overall it’s an exciting story, well executed, and blessed with a fine central performance that ensures every blow and setback the likable heroine suffers is felt by the audience, and every triumph celebrated. I for one am perplexed at its poor reputation.
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft
Runtime: 125 min