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‘You Were Never Really Here’ Is The ‘Taxi Driver’ For Post-9/11 Veterans
You Were Never Really Here is, at its core, a movie about brute force.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a former Marine who deployed to an undisclosed desert and became an FBI agent upon his return to the United States. Now a hired gun, Joe’s commissioned to retrieve the preteen daughter of a state senator from an underground sex ring, a mission that leads to a dark discovery and sends him into a tailspin of violence as he hammers his way through a child trafficking conspiracy. In You Were Never Really Here, justice isn’t blind — it’s a veteran armed with a ball-peen hammer.
The film isn’t really about Joe, though. The unspooling of his personal history resembles the suspense of horror movie, where a small glimpse of the macabre kicks the imagination into overdrive. His flashbacks feature what could be his deployment to Iraq or the horrible thing he found in the FBI; his mother drops hints of a failed relationship. You Were Never Really Here is about what happens to a sheepdog when his core identity revolves around his ability to save everyone but himself.
Joe’s problems are simultaneously relatable (transitioning from deployed military life is difficult!) and fantastical (most veterans do not become hired guns after they have exhausted government service). But despite this, the familiar foe of PTSD remains a core thread throughout the film: Joe is dissociated with those around him, on edge and imposing yet in a state of emotional pain that bubbles just beneath the surface. The only glimmers of humanity we see in Joe occur while he’s protecting innocent people or in the presence of his mother; other than these fleeting moments, he’s an outside observer to the events around him, struggling with his demons and the violence appears as a release valve for his inner turmoil.
There are outward scars to mirror his inner trauma. Joe’s body is shown to be covered in burn marks, scars from slashes, and bruises from blunt force trauma. The film opens with Joe taking a crowbar to the shoulder; his response to the crowbar is frightening, automatic, and without remorse, almost as jarring as the initial assault. And while there are moments of therapeutic release littered throughout the film, Joe’s attempts at self-care usually involve asphyxiation, a razor’s edge from suicidal. His only true moment of escape occurs in a silent vacuum, under a hot towel in what appears to be a sauna with what are hinted at to be fellow veterans.
You Were Never Really Here itself is a work of art. The anamorphic shots are beautiful and gritty. The scenes play out slowly, artfully and purposefully. The violence is usually hidden, but the result is not. At times the film becomes intensely cinematic and deliberate. The sound design is as elaborate as the cinematography. At times the soundtrack, which alternates between what is best described as a classical cacophony, and a sort of remixed version of the synth soundtrack of Top Gun, becomes indecipherable from the sound within the scene. Not to mention the tour de force that is Joaquin Phoenix. Nothing in this film is accidental.
Joaquin Phoenix in 'You Were Never Really Here'Amazon Studios
You Were Never Really Here is the Taxi Driver of the post 9/11 generation of veterans. Joe is not Travis Bickle, the 26-year-old Marine whose smoldering intensity Robert DeNiro so masterfully brought to life: In Taxi Driver, Sheepdog Bickle couldn’t seem to fit into society no matter how hard he tried, while Joe doesn’t seem to even want to bother. In the end, however, both found ways to show that they were uniquely talented to guard the society which considered them outsiders — a familiar feeling for many who serve overseas.
That's the beauty of the You Were Never Really Here: at no time does it feel like Joe freed himself from the horrible things he has seen or done. At the end of the day, much like Bickle, Joe is not whole or different. And his demons are not gone — they're just waiting for him around every corner.
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Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.
In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.
A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.
Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.
So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.
R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.