starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper, Jamie Foxx
screenplay by William Broyles, Jr., based on the novel by Anthony Swofford
directed by Sam Mendes
by Walter Chaw I went to high school with a guy who fought in the first Gulf War. I remember him as a delicate, sensitive, beautiful boy who in retrospect looked a lot like Cillian Murphy. I directed him in a play--and though I haven't spoken to him since, I heard that when he returned home, he was not quite the same. I remember chortling about the first Gulf War, too, thinking how funny it was that our military pounded fourth-generation Chinese armour with bombs left over from Vietnam in a withering blitz that left Saddam Hussein's vaunted "million man army" of non-volunteer soldiers buried in their trenches and surrendering to the press. I've never been able to completely reconcile the two impressions of that war through the haze of my own youth--this introduction to modern warfare as complex and confusing to my adolescent mind as love and looming responsibility. War was either something frightening and mysterious that left you ineffably changed, or it was hilarious and chuff to a chest-pounding nationalistic ego. Whatever the case, you surmise that it involves the slaughter of hordes of faceless huns.