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Movie Reviews

G.I. Jane  

Demi Moore is an individual to be admired and respected. That is the verdict after watching GI Jane, where she plays the first woman trainee in the US Navy. Demi goes through a staggering number of exhausting tests, brutal verbal and physical violence, and essentially makes herself oblivious to what is considered "proper" female behaviour, that to call her admirable just doesn`t cut it. She`s one dame you should not dare mess with.

Now I say this even as I fully agree with anyone who tells me the training depicted here is vile, cruel, humiliating, and certainly not for us so-called sensible people. If this movie were real life, and I knew Demi Moore, I`d try anything to dissuade her from such a career, because, frankly, the less people who are emotionally and mentally blunted by a career in warfare, the better. But this is a movie, so I would call Moore a brave soul to take on this brutal role. And that brutal role is what ultimately saves this movie, which does contain a few noticeable flaws. Demi Moore is not an actress who I`m usually interested in, but after seeing this, I've garnered a whole new perspective on her, and understand, in this film anyway, her true integrity.

Moore plays, as I said, the first female trainee in the US Navy, and this is possible due to the political manoeuvring of a Texas senator, played by Anne Bancroft. Moore's lover has objections to her entry, mainly because he wonders why a nice girl like her would want to get into a mess like the Navy. But Moore is unrelenting in her wish to get in, especially considering that she was not allowed to participate in the Gulf War, and so wants to prove to herself that she would be capable of a similar task if it arose.

But if she wants to pass the test, she has to withstand everything thrown in her path, especially the presence of the Master Chief, who, in the grand tradition of movie drill instructors, is a cruel and heartless sort. Interestingly enough, he is also a knowledgeable literary man, quoting D. H. Lawrence to his inferiors, although I doubt most of them would know that. They would assume Master Chief is a master at being nuts, as he talks about how birds would rather die than take pity for themselves. In other words, Master Chief doesn't care about your pain. He'd rather see you quit in humiliation if you can't survive the harsh, brutal nature that is war. And he definitely would like to see Moore quit, on the first day if necessary.

But it doesn`t happen. In fact, Moore does such a valiant job, she is the target of much resentment. One of the troops in her own group disregards the concept of teamwork by not helping her up a wall during an exercise, and by doing so, creates a black mark on Moore`s efforts. The men in general deliver the typical verbal garbage so common among the macho, redneck variety, when faced with womenkind. And when word leaks out to the public about the extraordinary achievements of this lone woman in a pack of wolves, high-powered officials will do anything to make sure she doesn't make it. For you see, it's one thing to form an impression of women participating fully in the military, and create an easy solution to appease the feminist vote, but quite another when a woman actually does a good job beyond the confines of politics.

Besides the anti-female abuse Moore takes, there is the abuse that naturally goes with the job.. And it takes no small amount of bravery for an actor to submit to the sorts of things shown here. There are many exercises in the water, including a scene where the people are held down while continuous streams of water are poured on their face, essentially to slowly remove the fear one naturally has when faced with the possibility of drowning. There are numerous war games involved, including the film's centerpiece, where Moore`s group is "captured" by enemies and are tortured. The idea of course is to submit the troops to as much agony as possible to prepare for the possible reality. When Moore is the next to be tortured, it goes far beyond the rules of the game (which are violent enough) in to the ultimate action taken by Master Chief to get rid of her, which results in the most violent scene in the movie, where the two of them basically beat the pulp out of each other. This may disturb people who understandably can`t accept seeing women being beaten up by a man, but it does finally show a woman who can handle pretty much anything.

The flaws of the movie basically come down to what happens at the end, where we are suddenly thrown into an action sequence which does not belong; which removes itself from the confines of the training exercises and into real warfare. To be honest, I think it is a pretty ridiculous transition, as if the director, Ridley Scott, figured there had to be a war sequence, to satisfy the (male) action fans who wanted to see some real action, instead of all that nonsense about women`s equality. If a woman (or any non-action director) handled this, that person would probably not worry about such things - it would be just as good to see her finish the training. We know she is good enough already.

But Scott still does at least allow three-dimensional women to participate fully in an action film, as he proved in the much-better Thelma and Louise. And the role Demi Moore is allowed to play is a pretty powerful one, because it shows us that there really should not be any problem with any person doing what they want to. Not as if a sensible person should have to be taught that from a Hollywood movie, but then again there are a lot of insensible people out there who probably couldn`t make the effort to learn it any other way.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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