October 19, 2003
Starring: Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft, Jason Beghe, Daniel von Bargen, John Michael Higgins, Kevin Gage, David Warshofsky, David Vadim, Morris Chestnut, Josh Hopkins, James Caviezel, Boyd Kestner, Angel David, Stephen Ramsey,
G.I. Jane flopped at the box office. This is an incontrovertible fact. It was a dead flop. As said in the movie ‘America is just not ready to see its young women come home in body bags’. However I think this film is still worthy of merit. Okay, Demi Moore stars as Lt. Jordan O’Neil, and Intel officer in the beginning, who is good at her job. Yes Moore is a bit wooden, but you have to give the woman her dues – she gave her all to star in this movie, working out 6 hours a day and by the end of filming able to do 11 one-armed press-ups in succession. Which of you could admit to being able to the same?
Our Lt. O’Neil, finds herself as the test case/guinea pig for the integration of women into active Navy duty. Anne Bancroft initially chooses Moore as the candidate for integration and of course O’Neil readily accepts the challenge being ‘pissed off’ that she couldn’t do active service during the gulf war because they didn’t ‘have bathroom facilities for women’ on board a sub.
So our Lieutenant gets packed off to the hardest form of physical training available – NAVY S.E.A.L.S. She arrives there to find herself segregated to separate barracks and ranked as a complete outsider with the other men. None of them want her there and go out of their way to make her life difficult. She finds it hard to integrate within the group but through proving herself via a series of difficult endeavours she manages to forge friendships.
Initially the physical training is more than difficult, it’s excruciatingly painful, and requires stamina. Mortensen’s tough but lyrical (he cites D.H. Lawrence poems at them) Master Chief John James Argayle, makes the new recruits lives hell. ‘I like to get one quitter on the first day, and until I do that first day does not end’. He especially dislikes O’Neil believing that women should not be in the Navy and deliberately seeks to treat her differently, and is harder on her than all the other men.
What cannot go without a mention is the legendary fight scene between O’Neil and the Master Chief. He has her as a captive during a training exercise and makes as if to rape her in front of the other men to get them to give in and leak information to him. She smacks her head back and breaks his nose with an almighty ‘crack’ and proceeds to literally kick his ass, cheered on by her fellow team-mates. She earns their and the Master Chief’s respect in return for her audacity and is cheered afterwards in the bar with what must be the most memorable line of the film ‘Suck my Dick’ which she shouts at the Chief when knocking the crap out of him!
Just when you think things are running smoothly, and she’s beginning to make friends things become a little rocky when she’s accused ‘of engaging in fraternisation with the opposite sex’ in plain English to you and me that’s being a lesbian. The navy chuck her out of the programme. However Moore’s boyfriend back home discovers she’s been set up by Bancroft’s people to get her out of the training programme.
Tough girl style, Moore marches into the Senator’s office and demands that she get her back into the training programme. Moore is perfectly wonderful here, threatening Bancroft brilliantly and giving such looks as would throw daggers! Bancroft eventually agrees and Moore is sent back to the training camp greeted by the master chief with a cheery ‘ I don’t know what the hell’s been going on the past 48 hours and frankly I don’t give a shit’ to which she replies ‘ Nice to see you to Master Chief’ which completely throws him.
Finally they go an active exercise in Libya to rescue a team that has been recovering a damaged satellite. On the exercise she proves her worth, setting up an ambush for the enemy and correctly predicting the way the chief will run (using her topographical skills learnt at Intel) and eventually rescues the chief after he’s been shot, so completely earning his respect and admiration and qualifying for a place in the SEALS.
Although this film was generally ridiculed and overlooked, I think it is a fantastic piece in terms of feminism. Moore not only does all the exercising, working out, all the training, but also shaves all her hair off for the role – and as I’ve mentioned could do 11 one-arm press-ups! (Sorry I just can’t get over that fact. 11 for Christ’s sake! I can’t even do one two-arm press-up!) The tension between her and Mortensen’s Master Chief is also brilliant, changing as the film progresses from hate to respect to almost bordering on sexual tension by the end.
The film is typical Ridley Scoot, the quick editing, good camera work, you only have to look at Black Hawk Down and even (but to a lesser extent) Blade Runner to see the similarities, and in my opinion is just as good as these other films.
However, the DVD just doesn’t do justice to such a good film. There are some meagre offerings for ‘special features’, an un-remarkable featurette with interviews with the cast and director, the theatrical trailer, a B-roll of film (God why?) and some ‘Demi’ sound bites, which are quite frankly pointless drivel.
With some better special feature this really would make a great package, without it’s just a good film. Some like it, others hate it (and don’t watch it just for Mortensen – he looks nothing like Aragorn LOTR here!) I really enjoy it, and as a bit of a budding feminist I love the way the guys get their asses kicked by a woman. Surely it’s worth watching just for that?