The Art of War Films

Paper by James Giddings.

Humanity is often engaged in warfare; it is a topic that many different mediums and avenues deliberate. Film is a powerful tool to both create and tell a story to a wide audience of viewers. War films then are worth analyzing as they specifically create political and representational narratives. Through the use of their claims of historical accuracy, the depictions of their characters, and how the film views loss of life these narratives are imparted on the viewer. This is important to understand because these films then are directly responsible for creating political or historical understanding which in turn influences public opinions at large.

The historical accuracy and representation behind the films Paths of Glory (1957), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Black Hawk Down (2001) are important aspects of the overall story and impact it will have on the viewers understanding. The few points all these movies make together include the implied representations of historical accuracy that they depict. When dealing with such historical subjects there is gained a legitimacy in what is being viewed on the screen. Paths of Glory’s story comes from the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb which was a loose representation of the real life event of the “Souian Corporals Affair”, where four French soldiers were executed in 1915 under General Géraud Réveilhac for failure to follow orders. Being a film about a subject related to a real-life historical event creates a sense of legitimacy, especially so by using the setting of WWI, the depiction of the French Army structure, and the costume/set design accuracy. When the viewer sees the trenches, they appear realistic in their set design, the desolation of “No-Man’s land” being so well captured. The use of the film being black and white instead of in color makes it feel as though its footage of actual events, especially during the trench or action sequences. Born on the Fourth of July is based off the autobiography of the real-life Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Oliver Stone who directed the film previously released another Vietnam War film Platoon in 1986. Having the filmmaker already establishing themselves as a storyteller about historical events adds to the legitimacy of what is being seen on screen as more accurate. The actors portraying Marines in the film underwent a one-week training missions by a military advisor. The real-life Ron Kovic also appears in the film as a World War II veteran featured in the Independence Day parade in the beginning of the film. All these elements are desired by the filmmaker to lend in the authenticity of the events and the responses of the characters on screen. Seeing the portrayal of Kovic and knowing the production process make the viewer feel as though the screen is creating an accurate representation. This becomes even more so the case with Black Hawk Down. Black Hawk Down is based off the book by journalist Mark Bowden regarding the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, and is comprised from extensive research in US Army records, interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict, reviewed footage recorded by observation aircraft, and recordings of radio traffic. The source of the film’s material was seen as very accurate, so the film adaptation would then be seen by the viewer as equally accurate. This would be especially the case when the actors portraying the Army Rangers, the Delta Force, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) helicopter pilots all received training courses provided by the military. It is even noted that the Ranger actors were given a note at the end of their training that asked them to “tell our story true” and was signed with the names of the men who died in the Mogadishu firefight. The vehicles and some props, the helicopters from the actual 160th SOAR, and their pilots were provided by the U.S. Army itself. Black Hawk Down like the previous films makes the argument that what is being viewed on screen is accurate in what it represents about war. However, the films all end up imparting different political messages about war to the viewer, the usage of tone and other filmic elements create an alternate representation of what actually occurred as these real-life events unfolded. These films seek to tell a historical story and political implication while the real-life events did not have such apparent elements. Majority of complaints with the films selected are that they are seen to take artistic liberties in what they are depicting. Impactful scenes on screen might have been entirely contrived and have no historical existence. Saying that what the viewer is seeing on screen, though claiming and appearing to be accurate, are actively falsifying and rewriting history to sell a political narrative. Viewers who see these films and the attention to detail with uniforms or training will mistakenly think the action depicted on screen is just as accurate. The viewer of these films in particular is already removed from the historical context the events in the films took place, lending to the film being one of the few sources they will receive information from. Paths of Glory was released forty-three years after the events in the film took place, Born on the Fourth of July’s war scenes take place twenty-two years before the film, and the events of Black Hawk Down occurring eight years prior to the film’s release. The gap in time allows for political or personal narratives to influence the action of what is being presented. These films implying accuracy is them implying truth, which leaves the viewer having to decide which political representation is accurate.

The initial ways these selected films create this difference in representations and political statements about war is with the representations of who the film vilifies. These films change the perspectives of what and who is considered the “enemy” in the film. Paths of Glory makes the enemy the corruption in the upper command of the French Army. Brigadier General Paul Mireau and Major General Georges Broulard both serve as antagonistic forces to the film. Mireau is the driving force for the executions of the men on trial in the film, and his dialogue explains he is eager to give up even more men. Mireau is shown in a scene to readily call for the mortar bombardment of a section of his soldiers to get them moving out of the trenches, trying to pulling rank in attempt to get the bombardment authorized and threatening the ordnance commander with a firing squad execution. This scene is structured in a way that it depicts Mireau’s relative safety being in the command center or a well-fortified section of the trenches. He remains unscathed and secure from the absolute carnage outside the walls. More set elements cover the living conditions of this upper command compared to that of the men in the trenches, when the commanders are away from the frontlines altogether. In these scenes the commanders are being placed in extravagantly furnished open rooms where they are free to move about. In many conversation scenes with Broulard specifically the film makes use of the camera including wide shots where this large lavishness is really well captured. The viewer compares this to dimly lit trenches and shots giving a sense of confinement. These themes are arguing to the viewer that the ones behind making decisions in war are comfortably ambivalent to the men under their command. It depicts Mireau as more of a threat to the safety of the lives of his men then the enemy that they are facing in the trenches. The representations of Mireau’s willingness to mortar his own men creates a narrative that in war the real enemy are the ones giving out orders and that makes them then untrustworthy. The enemy in Born on The Fourth of July is similar in using that of the military. The command allows for a village of Vietnamese non-combatants to be massacred under their misguidance. An additional element is Kovic’s company commander’s response to the accidental shooting of Private Wilson when he shows an ambivalence to the loss of life and disregards Kovic’s confession. This vilifies the upper command and touches on the earlier discussed narrative that the war command is ambivalent to the deaths of their own men. Both of these films seek to create the enemy in that of the forces that are driving war rather than an enemy combatant. This argues their ideas of being anti-war in their messages to the viewer. Different to the representations that Black Hawk Down makes about who it vilifies. Black Hawk Down choses to follow the historical/ source materials narrative point of view in that the enemy was the Somali militia. They are depicted as an unyielding force of seemingly never-ending waves of fighters, tenacious in their desire to kill the heroes of the film. They lack a dynamic character journey and serve mostly as the role for cannon fodder for the central cast of the film. The few lines of dialogue the viewer does hear from them say lines like, “in Somalia killing is our negotiation.” This creates the political narrative of negative aspects to the Somali natives and vilifies the people. Instead of vilifying the command, Black Hawk Down makes the outward enemy the threat to the viewer, which contradicts the narratives made by Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July.

The subsequent analysis then is of the characters the films designate as the “Heroes” of the film. In Paths of Glory the central hero is Colonel Dax, where Dax is depicted as a protector of his men of which he cares for their wellbeing and attempts in earnest to defend the ones on trial. His character is the one the viewer trusts to have a good code of ethics and morals, not acting with ulterior motives. This is proven to the viewer in the film with the dialogue between Dax and Major General Georges Broulard the corps commander. Boulard is shocked that Dax has acted so selflessly in the film and expected him to have reasons other than his own innate desire. This interaction proves the legitimacy of Dax’s character and what his character says or represents in the film. The filmmaker can use this central character to influence the perspective the viewer ends with. The indignations against this “good” character offend the viewer and showing Dax in defense against political corruption speaks to the viewer an idea that wars breed or are borne from corruption. The depiction in Born on Fourth of July show Ron Kovic’s central character to be idealistic and pure in heart. Like Dax his character is the one the viewer will associate a good moral code and ethics with. In the film when these elements are shown to be tarnished it speaks to the influence war has on the “hero” character. This speaks negatively to the representation of war showing the viewer that it causes these otherwise good-natured men to be responsible for such savagery. Using the scene of the accidental killing of the Vietnamese citizens, the hero of the film is contrasted against the carnage which uses such a rawness in elements. The composition feeling heavy, the set consisting of bloodied walls and floors, the cast either being the dead villagers or the men who shot them, and the sound comprising of a crying infant. All these elements are used to affect the on-screen characters as much as the viewer. These films create a narrative that war is corrupt and immoral, which gives the viewer the political message that war is corrupt and immoral. Films like Black Hawk Down create different narratives that are in contention to those positions making such claims. Opposing the films villains are all the American forces which have no shortage of on-screen heroic elements in the film. Pleasant scores or songs follow their scenes which make the viewer know they are the “good guys”. When they feel pessimistic the mood and score follows suit, when they are triumphant so is the score. Specific depictions like SFC Norm “Hoot” Gibson appearing as the typical action-film hero. In the onset of the film he is shown undercover in a Somalian market and a little later on during his evac to successfully poach a boar that is used in a meal for the stationed soldiers. These scenes mythologize his character in the eyes of the viewer with his heroic abilities on display. Other scenes depict his character as not fighting for being a “warjunkie” but for the man next to him. His reasons for engagement in battle depict war as a place to defend the person next to you, a positive representation when compared to that of the ones created by Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July. In a direct contrast to Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July, Black Hawk Down shows the higher command to be good characters. MG William F. Garrison is composed in a scene late into the film to be wiping the blood off the floor of the bases medical station, having the symbolic role of him taking responsibility for the American blood that the film’s operation had shed.
The depictions of combat in the films selected demonstrate a representation in how the filmmakers wanted the viewer to understand warfare. All three of the films selected differ on what themes and elements are shown, yet they also hold some similarities. Chaos during ensuing firefights is shown in all three films, explaining to the viewer the hectic and frantic elements of war. Though all three films expertly showing these emotions, that take away of hectic elements is where the depictions tend to end in similarities. First looking at Paths of Glory’s over the trench’s scene, which shows emotions of fear and imminent death in the face of war. The French Army is crashing like a wave against the immovable rock of the German defensive line. The disallowance of Colonel Dax to be able to advance due to heavy suppressing fire show the viewer an element of frivolity against the absolute onslaught of the enemy. The mise-en-scene of Paths of Glory as stated creates a mortar charred hellscape and with the sounds of explosions and gunfire in this scene, it works to deafen any other sounds amplifying feelings of overall helplessness. Born on the Fourth of July shows the confusion that arises during a firefight, with the scene of Ron Kovic on the beach. The composition of the scene uses washed out lighting and the colors are mostly varying shades of browns or greens creating a uniform lack of distinction. Likewise, the character of Ron Kovic appears almost to be shooting with his eyes fully closed, firing around the beach at the Vietcong indiscriminately. This creates a sense of disorder for the viewer, making the warfare depicted appear disorderly and chaotic. This imparts the representation that warfare is based in fear and the actions taken are affected by that fear. Both Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July create a sense that not only is war chaotic but that solider is fearful and helpless. Comparing those representations to the ones created in Black Hawk Down show a difference in expression of those representations. Black Hawk Down’s depiction of combat is imbued with fear and disorder; however, the American forces are seen to triumph against those elements instead of being marred by them. There is a scene with SFC Norm “Hoot” Gibson taking control of a .50 caliber machine gun in a Humvee after the previous gunner had been shot which shows determination in the face of adversity. The scene still uses elements of fear and helplessness, as the men are receiving heavy fire unilaterally while stuck in what amounts to a metal box, a feeling of fish being shot in a barrel. The scene feels tight, the cramped interiors with the dead body of a soldier leaking blood have a feeling of oppressive realness. Instead of the film showing Hoot to be paralyzed by fear, his character jumps on the gun to lay down fire upon the Somali militants. This depiction to the viewer shows a strong man character overcoming fears in sacrifice of the greater fight. The representation made by Black Hawk Down shows a heroism in facing against these odds instead of assured suicide that the other two films impart. Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July create a negative image of warfare and those that are present for the battle, even when depicting allied forces. These depictions are in contention to the image Black Hawk Down makes, showing the allied forces to take on a David against Goliath role, depicting a heroism in battle. These films create the discussions that the individual will have about war and warfare. The filmmakers of Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July desire is to not celebrate the warfare that is depicted, they seek to make a commentary against fighting, whereas Black Hawk Down asks the viewer to take up the fallen sword.

The loss and futility of life is another topic that all three of the selected films touch on. The films touch on an idea of the loss of life in war, displaying the deaths in Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July to mostly be friendly fire versus the depictions made in Black Hawk Down. Paths of Glory shows a nighttime raid operation wherein Lieutenant Roget lobs a grenade in a friendly direction and kills a forward positioned scout. Roget is suffering from those elements of fear discussed earlier, causing him to panic and mistakenly kill one of his own men. This as well touches on the earlier perception that the military will sacrifice the lives of its men in a selfish and fearful manner, in this case only thinking of its own survival. This perception is likewise shown in Born on the Fourth of July with the beach scene earlier discussed which causes Ron Kovic to kill Wilson a friendly solider due to his character’s emotional state. Both of these films show a direct picture of allied forces killing their own men and not those men dying in combat against the “enemy”. This imparts on the viewer that the allied forces are responsible for the deaths and loss of life of their own and it was them that assumed the role of executioner. The real threat to the safety of these men is the command they, as well as the viewer, have put their trust in. The ideas being created are that the men in these films did not have to die in the ways that they did, they should have had a more heroic exit but the realities of war do not warrant that. Black Hawk Down does not deny that the loss of life is important but the depictions it creates are much more in a heroic vein. In Black Hawk Down, CPL Jamie Smith is shown to sacrifice his life to assist another solider getting to cover. Smith runs out into the street to help bring SPC Lance Twombly to safety with the rest of the group, he is struck while carrying out this task and dies due to medical exfiltration being impossible due to the heavy bombardment of enemy gunfire. Smith’s sacrifice saves the life of one man at the expense of his own, showing a flat trade of a life for a life. This shows an element in the futile loss of life in war, Smith sacrifices his safety for his fellow and is unable to receive airlift or medical aid which causes him to die. The heroic action’s he takes do not save him from the loss of life that war doles out showing that despite the positive light his character is shed in, the loss of that sacred life is a reality of war. All three films then speak to the idea that the loss of life in warfare is negative and not celebrated, the realities of the end these men faced were not like the ideations they most likely held. The viewer of these films then takes on the perception that life in war is futile and possibly not long lasting. In the opening sequence of Black Hawk Down, there is a quote included saying, “only the dead have seen the end of war”. Comparing the films Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July to Black Hawk Down, do show a difference in the reverence that is represented, however. Paths of Glory culminates in an execution showing the viewer that death, and specifically the death of allied forces, creates no lasting impact on the military at large. Ron Kovic’s accidental slaying of Wilson show a death driven by fear, and though he is able to seek out redemption shows that Wilson’s death is futile and has only lasting impact on Kovic. Black Hawk Down seeking to create a more pro-war stance then shows the loss of life, though futile, to be a heroic sacrifice. The filmmakers desire to create these certain representations in their films to speak to the message of loss of life in war, where Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July, seek to turn the viewer away from war, Black Hawk Down sanctifies sacrifice and galvanizes the viewer. Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July condemning the actions and loss of life where Black Hawk Down holds loss in reverence. These create the perceptions that the public will hold regarding warfare and what these films say about the loss of life, showing that it is a major aspect of war and is unforgiving in who meets death.

The role of innocence plays a role in all the selected films, and these films show how that innocence is changed after war. The central characters in the film display a change in perceptions by the end of the film, that the viewer is supposed to be in line with. In Paths of Glory there is the depiction of the three men picked to be executed, the effects of the war have created the idea of cowardice being within the ranks being a detriment in battle. The command would rather see their perceived justice carried out rather than the objective of winning the war. Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July is seen to have idealistic beginnings and ends up meeting a harsh reality. Early in the film the depictions of Kovic as a young boy playing war, show a youthful idealizing of battle and warfare. Later, once in war Kovic meets heavy resistance from an enemy held position and while the rest of his company retreat to find cover, Kovic remains out in the open and hastily shoots around instead. Later in the film Kovic bemoans his stupidity in acting so haughty, as his injuries due to his actions have caused him to be paralyzed. Kovic’s interaction in the war show an idealistic young man, being wounded and broken by the events of war. This representation imparts a feeling to the viewer that the idealism previously held is replaced with disdain. It further speaks to an idea that the vison of war that the viewer holds is nothing similar to what the reality of war is. Both Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July show a weakness after engaging in war, telling the viewer the central characters are in a worse position then beforehand. Black Hawk Down in contention to that does show the loss of innocence but that loss is a to the benefit of the character. SPC John “Grimesey” Grimes begins the film behind a desk having been enlisted during major campaigns but never seeing combat. Grimes is shown to not even know what to pack for the operation, and in an extended scene shown to only have his name labeled on his helmet minutes before the action of the film begins. Grimes is constantly being looked after by the more seasoned soldiers, which makes his character seem ineffective and possibly more of a detriment. This innocence is lost in the out of the frying pan and into the fire scenario of the Mogadishu raid. Grimes is shown from starting as this unassuming aloof desk worker, to eventually facing off against a truck of Somali militants. In this scene Grimes stands in the open being directly in the line of fire of a technical, a truck with a machine gun placement in the bed. Grimes is able to lob off two grenades from his under-barrel launcher, which destroy the truck and he is then shown successfully dodging an incoming RPG. The loss of Grimes’ innocence is replaced with a Hollywood heroism and extreme combat effectiveness. The message that this shows the viewer is that warfare tempers the individual instead of weakens them, they become stronger and more resilient due to war. The films Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth as stated do not show such a change, their depictions condemning combat instead of commemorating it. Grimes begins the film as a weakened character and ends battle on being a stronger character, Kovic begins battle as a strong character and leaves battle a weakened one. These films play a major role in what they are asserting war does to the individual and are influential to the viewer and how they are to understand the effects of combat.

The place where the most descriptive perception of war that these films all make is found in their endings. Paths of Glory ends with the knowledge Colonel Dax and his men are going to be prepping for their redeployment. This ending shows that despite the actions of the film, the noise is drowned out in the larger cacophony of war. The men on trial are executed and the war needs Dax in a different area. Paths of Glory wants the viewer to take away that these injustices happen in war and are put aside because of obligations to secure victory. This again touches on the earlier identified perspective that the commanders of war have little care over their men and desire a victory however it is to be achieved. The events in Born on the Fourth of July have lasting impact on the development of Ron Kovic’s character. In the end sequence he is depicted to be in a march with other veterans against the Vietnam War. This shows the viewer that the idealistic protagonist’s truth at the onset of the film idolizing war is now shed and is something to be protested against, asking the viewer to feel the same. Both of these films end in a way to condemn or criticize war influencing the perception that it should and could end. Conversely, Black Hawk Down ends in a call to action for the viewer, discussing how war’s must be fought for the safety of your fellow man. The ending scene follows SFC Norm “Hoot” Gibson’s speech about fighting not because he was a warjunkie but for the man next to him which is important for what the film wants to explain. The content of the speech gives a reason and absolves the actions of the central cast and the combat they have participated in over the course of the film. The final ending scene revolves around SSG Matt Eversmann speaking over the body of CPL Jamie Smith, where Eversmann is shown saying “no one asks to be a hero, it just sometimes turns out that way”. The feelings that this film ends with is a reverence for those men that had died in combat yet encouraging the sacrifices that have to be made.

The context of these films helps to cement the perspectives that each one takes about warfare and shows how these films and ones like them can change public perceptions. In the article, “The Brutality of Military Incompetence: ‘Paths of Glory’” written by Andrew Kelly, he comments:
“it should be recalled that Paths of Glory was released at a time when Europe was more divided than ever with the creation of new economic and military power blocs: the Warsaw Pact on the one side and NATO and the European Community on the other.”

The films anti-war message and distrust in military command are contextual elements to the then state of the world when the film was made. This influences the tones and messages that the film carries and that in turn then influence the viewer. Though appearing to be anti-war at a time of heightened animosity Kelly in his article discusses how:
“made 20 years ago, [the film] might have found a sympathetic audience in a passionately pacifist period, might even have been greeted as a minor masterpiece. Made today, it leaves the spectator often confused and numb, like a moving speech in a dead language”

This response by Kelly shows how a film though telling an anti-war message may not be one the public wants to hear at that time. During such high-tension historical times a film undermining the legitimacy of military command and showcasing the brutality of war is something that works against the viewer’s view of warfare. Paths of Glory as noted by Kelly, had a few problems “with domestic censorship…. the film being banned in United States military establishments at home and overseas”. This reaction by the US military shows that the nature of the content of the film is effective in getting its anti-war message across, as then current military personnel were prohibiting from watching the film. The messages and representations it makes create the narratives it will give the viewer, this case being anti-war sentiment. Comparing this to the state of the world when Born on the Fourth of July was released. The article, “New Left, Revisionist, In-Your-Face History: Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July Experience” by Jack E. Davis discusses how, “Born represents the new genre of war films that emerged after Vietnam”, Davis writes how in the years from 1939 to 1992 over 600 films—shorts, features, television, and pilots—related to Vietnam were made. All of the media released prior to 1975 “tended to follow the traditional superpatriotic World War II formula.” In other words, they glorified military conflict, and gave a value to war “while extolling the twin virtues of personal sacrifice and group solidarity.” The reasons that Born on the Fourth of July is so open in its anti-war sentiment is because of its understanding that films create images and narratives for the viewer. Davis outlines this when he discusses how “Stone and Kovic understood that the hawkish ideas coming out of Hollywood helped lead America and young men into Vietnam.” The patriotic elements of films prior to the Vietnam conflict show how their sense of patriotism influenced the generation of men that fought in the war. As discussed earlier the world when Born on the Fourth of July was released had been gripped by the effects of the Cold War and its soon cessation. Born on the Fourth of July was released in 1989, only a few years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union which occurred in 1991. After forty-four years of conflict between the threat of Communism and the rest of the world, the grip the Soviet Union had on the world was failing. Having a film that discusses the events of the Vietnam War and Communism in the context of a weakening Soviet Union, speaks to the idea of frivolity in the Vietnam conflict. Seemingly consecutive wars have caused the then current state of the world. In the film Kovic’s character discusses how they were there to destroy Communism but recall that the film shows the viewer the ideological enemy is not the real enemy in the film. Having an anti-war message after years of being on the brink of total war and nuclear annihilation is going to be impactful on the viewer, trying to explain how the ones pushing for these wars are to blame for the death and destruction wars cause. Black Hawk Down was released in December of 2001, only a few months past the events of 9/11. Though the production of this film was started long before the events that took place on 9/11, in the article, “The New War Movies As Moral Rearmament: Black Hawk Down & We Were Soldiers” by Tom Doherty writes how, “For most Americans, the fog of war that blankets the high grass of the Ia Drang Valley or the corrugated shacks of downtown Mogadishu dissipates in the ruins of Lower Manhattan”. It would be impossible for the then viewer to view the film removed from the context of the attacks on 9/11. Elements such as the Islamization of the Somalia people are going to affect the viewer in a far different context. Though this film may have been wanting to elicit the perspective Doherty writes as:
“Black Hawk Down exemplifies a popular subset of the combat film, the extraction film. Its genesis and basic template is a schematic expression of the martial impotence felt during the Iranian hostage crisis: trapped by hostile, usually Arab-coded depredators, Americans must be rescued by the tactical brilliance and dauntless courage of elite military forces, fulfilling in fantasy a scenario that ended in catastrophe when rescue helicopters crashed in the sands of Desert One in 1980.”
The possibility of showing an expert and efficient military command in the wake of the Iran Contra Affair is very high, but those previously held notions are going to only be further exemplified in the wake of 9/11. The takeaway for the viewer when watching Black Hawk Down is that the military and fight against Americas enemies is an important fight and war must be waged to ensure democracy.

The films selected all show themselves to not hide behind what perspectives they are trying to be influencing. The world after warfare is going to want a movie that speaks to that current state of peace, disavowing any future conflicts and the loss of life caused by war. They will see the leaders of the countries or military command as the reasons for the deaths of their countrymen, instead of the ideological foes they faced in battle. These films are influential in the perspectives they give for the future generations as well as the historical claims of authenticity they make in choosing whom they vilify. Films like Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July condemn the actions of the wars they discuss; they paint a picture that says it was futile and gave rise to corrupt command and the senseless deaths of fighting men. Showing elements of chaos in warfare, and who the films chose to condemn, and praise prove this sentiment. This view is based in the quote from Jack Davis article when he says, “Stone and Kovic understood that the hawkish ideas coming out of Hollywood helped lead America and young men into Vietnam.” Filmmakers are aware of the influence a pro-war film and an anti-war film make. Both films are substantial years past the events their plots discuss, acting and coming from a place of hindsight. These films get to see how the wars they depict affect the populace, and can use those elements to create a narrative, despite the authenticity of such claims. Black Hawk Down was released at a time of political turmoil, America had just been attacked on its own soil and felt the loss of innocent life. A film depicting the struggle of American soldiers taking heavy fire and causalities but remaining steadfast and achieving victory is going to directly speak to the American public at that time. This not only influences public opinion of those who are viewing the film but those who are enlisting in the military. This film is anti-war in only the way of depicting the savagery of combat, but even then, it seems more celebratory when waves of Somalis are defeated by a small group of Americans. Comparing the elements of these films Black Hawk Down tells a run of the mill war film, with clear heroes, villains and blockbuster scenes of combat verses the more poetic and critical films that Paths of Glory and Born on the Fourth of July are. All three of these films are either born from political sentiment or create political sentiment, and they all influence the world of the viewer.

War and the effects it brings is a topic that differ in mediums and narratives created. Film is a powerful tool in the way it creates a presentation of representations that influence the opinion of the viewer. War films themselves specifically create political and representational narratives through their use of historical accuracy, their depictions of the characters, and how they view life and the loss of life. War films will also influence public opinions and how the viewer then relates to the world. War films maintain they are inaccurate retelling of events, but this paper has shown how they are anything but and serve as a vehicle for political ideations.

Works Cited

Doherty, Tom. “THE NEW WAR MOVIES AS MORAL REARMAMENT: Black Hawk Down & We Were Soldiers.” Cineaste, vol. 27, no. 3, Summer 2002, p. 4. EBSCOhost,

Kauffmann, Stanley. “Reasons For Being.” New Republic, vol. 226, no. 2, Jan. 2002, pp. 20–21. EBSCOhost,

Davis, Jack E. “New Left, Revisionist, In-Your-Face History: Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July Experience.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television, vol. 28, no. 3–4, 1998, pp. 6–17. EBSCOhost,

Burgess, Jackson. “The ‘Anti-Militarism’ of Stanley Kubrick.” Film Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 1, 1964, pp. 4–11. JSTOR, Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.

Andrew Kelly (1993) The brutality of military incompetence: ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957), Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 13:2, 215-227, DOI: 10.1080/01439689300260221

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