The Soldier’s Story

How Movies about Our Troops Have Entered Prominance at the Cinema

Since the Year 2000, there have been some revolutionary achievements in cinema. From Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy to James Cameron’s eye popping Avatar, filmmakers have evolved cameras and cgi to give viewers a better and more convincing story. And while we might live in an era where superhero franchises rule supreme, they are not the only heroes out there. The soldiers that serve in our military- the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army- have been the subject of many films recently. Their stories have captivated audiences around the world, thanks to the innovative technology used to bring their fight to the big screen. A few of these films include Black Hawk Down, Act of Valor, Lone Survivor, and American Sniper. Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters now.

Soldiers endure terrible battles during war. Those that survive deployment and return home are not without their own scars. Many veterans suffer from bodily harm or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD  is a disorder that develops after a “terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm” (National Institute of Mental Health). Symptoms can include flashbacks. While the soldiers depicted in films get the usual combat scenes and explosions, recent movies have also explored home life and emotions of these seemingly ordinary people. In Act of Valor and Lone Survivor the film depicts the deep sense of comradeship that exists between troops; strong enough to sacrifice themselves to save their friends. In American Sniper, Chris Kyle’s heroism was made known to moviegoers around the globe. It depicted a man torn between his men and his family. And while they might appear calm at a glance, the years of service have taken an emotional toll on our veterans. In the newly released film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi audiences are again faced with the complex lives of those at the frontline.

I believe that society has become more open and accepting of soldier films. While in bygone days military men were depicted as tough lone figures, the public image of soldiers has greatly evolved. Soldiers are now multifaceted characters that are capable of experiencing guilt and sorrow. Embracing the humanity of these soldiers has made it easier for audiences to relate and sympathize with what they see. And while the wars they fight in might be a point of controversy, their heroism is unparalleled and inspiring. People are motivated to be better through their actions in an attainable way. Realistically, although everyone might adore and long to possess superhuman abilities, such powers are purely fictional in origin. Movies about soldiers and the sacrifices they make fill me with a sense patriotism. Showing these movies on the big screen can have an overwhelmingly positive influence on audiences; each of these heroes are our role models, there to push us to be more.

In Michael Bay’s film 13 Hours, a team of soldiers who have served from various military branches are faced with defending the U.S. Ambassador and his staff from a diplomatic facility, and a covert CIA base against militant forces in Benghazi, Libya (IMDB). As Richard Lawson described in his review of the film: “In 13 Hours we keenly feel the frustration of those on the ground that ampler security was not provided for this most dangerous of diplomatic outposts” (Lawson, Vanity Fair). With the odds against them, they must make a final stand. Whether you agree with these films or not, it is worth noting that soldiers and their battles have become recurring stars in Hollywood.