Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The upcoming military-themed movies and shows you should keep an eye out for — and a couple you may want to avoid
I watch a lot of television, movies, trailers, and trailer breakdowns for work, but here's the thing: I can't tell you or anyone else what makes a genuinely good military movie or show, especially if I haven't seen it yet. And I wouldn't call myself a "critic" in the classic sense. Then again what do they know; they said The Hurt Locker was a masterpiece.
What I do know, is that I get excited about stories that make an honest effort to achieve some measure of authenticity, whether it's a full blown dramatic reenactment of some major conflict, or seeing characters interact (even briefly) in a way you recognize, because you've had those conversations on base, overseas, or while you were drunk at one in the morning in the barracks.
At their best, military movies and shows focus on a character's service as more than a lazy plot device to explain why they're good with guns, have a high and tight, or shout out bits of military lingo at random moments; at their very worst, they may trot out the broken vet trope to add a little drama. And of course, there's the laziest of them where everyone's an operator — even lawyers, apparently.
Yup, you read that right. Sylvester Stallone is back as John fucking Rambo, and he's here to beat, stab, and shoot bad guys full of holes and pepper them with arrows in Rambo 5: Last Blood — and in the process, remind us just how far removed the franchise is from the original film, First Blood.
The 1982 action blockbuster First Blood is a tragic (albeit Hollywoodized) story of a decorated Vietnam veteran who struggled to cope with post-traumatic stress and a loss of identity after his service. Home from war, John Rambo travels to a small rural town in search of an old friend, only to find that he passed away. The townsfolk are apathetic and distant, and the town sheriff is outright hostile. To them, Rambo is little more than a weapon of war — a tool that doesn't belong in civilized society. The film ends with an acknowledgement that war sometimes stays with the warrior when Stallone delivers the iconic line: "Nothing is over."
Turns out, neither is this franchise.
You know what what America really needs right now? No, not new and bold war films based on the storied battles of the Forever War. Nah, what we need is another blood-soaked, bulgy-veined rampage starring the action genre’s most iconic PTSD-addled veteran: John Rambo.
On April 10, 2012, Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, a soldier with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was on a routine patrol in Afghanistan when he placed his assault pack on the ground and triggered an improvised explosive device. Mills was 24 years old and on his third combat deployment. The explosion amputated all four of his limbs.