By Jason Apuzzo. Since we first debuted Terror Watch as a series here at Libertas back on the weekend of September 11th, there have been a torrent of announcements regarding War on Terror-themed projects in Hollywood and in the indie film world – confirming that we have a major, bona fide trend in play here. The floodgates are obviously now open, and the War on Terror – interpreted as a traditional American fight for freedom – has suddenly become one of the hottest subjects in Hollywood.
What’s causing this trend? I have my theories, which are in order: 1) the weakening grip of the Baby Boomers on Hollywood; 2) the successful bin Laden raid; 3) Obama in the White House; 4) the astonishing success of video games like Call of Duty and Battlefield.
But actually I don’t particularly care what’s causing it any longer. All I know is that it’s about damn time.
• Among the big new projects announced recently, two really caught my eye: the Navy SEAL drama Rubicon, and the CGI Iraq War thriller Thunder Run. Rubicon will be written, directed and produced by Christopher McQuarrie – and the Rubicon story will serve as a platform for a movie, graphic novel and a videogame. Rubicon is set in Afghanistan and features the Navy SEALs as the heroes and the Taliban the villains. Fabulous! We’ve only been waiting for this sort of thing for what – 10 years? McQuarrie’s brother actually commanded a SEAL team, and the film will otherwise be co-produced with founding SEAL Team Six member Dan Capel.
As an added bonus: Rubicon will be a retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, with the Navy SEALs taking the place of the samurai.
So am I looking forward to this project? Hell yes. The Seven Samurai connection in particular gives the storyline a kind of mythic overtone, elevating it above conventional action-thriller fare. Cineastes may recall, incidentally, that director John Sturges’ classic Western The Magnificent Seven had similar origins in Kurosawa’s film. Bravo to McQuarrie and team for having the ambition to try this, and we’ll root for this project getting fully off the ground in days ahead.
As for Thunder Run, that appears to be an even more unusual project – essentially a 3D CGI depiction of the heroic capture of Baghdad by American forces in April 2003. The film is based on the novel Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, and Black Hawk Down screenwriters Robert Port and Ken Nolan are writing the adaptation. Amazingly, the film already has Gerard Butler, Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey attached, along with director Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider). In other words, this is a very hot property – and given the gigantic debut of Call of Duty this past week, expectations for this film could be absolutely off the charts. Also: Thunder Run already has a promo poster out. [Btw, I'm wondering if Sam Worthington is clearing all this stuff with James Cameron?]
As if that’s not enough, Brad Thor’s novel Takedown is now in development at Warner Brothers. Takedown deals with a butt-kicking former Navy SEAL Team 6 member who takes on an Al Qaeda plot to strike New York; think Jack Bauer on steroids
In other new projects: Michelle Monaghan (Machine Gun Preacher) will be playing an Afghanistan War vet in the indie drama Fort Bliss; Tom Hanks has been offered the lead in Patriot Down, about a U.S. President on the run after Air Force One gets shot down over Pakistan; Producer Frank Marshall (the Indiana Jones & Bourne films) will now be adapting some of Jeffrey Archer’s novels; Oliver Hirschbiegel will soon be directing Eye in the Sky about drone strikes; and Universal may be picking up a new comic book project called War Heroes – although that one looks vaguely annoying.
• The Devil’s Double, which features an electrifying performance by Dominic Cooper in the dual role of Uday Hussein and his body double Latif Yahia, hits Blu-ray/DVD on November 22nd. If this film didn’t hit your area or you haven’t had the chance yet to check it out yet, this week will be your big chance. (Read Joe Bendel’s glowing review of the film from LFM’s coverage of Sundance.) Govindini and I were very impressed with the film and can’t recommend it enough.
• The big news, which came out just yesterday, is that the untitled Sony-Kathryn Bigelow ‘hunt for bin Laden’ movie has a new official release date of December 19th, 2012. Also: the movie apparently has its star, Jason Clarke (I’m not familiar with him), with prominent people like Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Guy Pearce, Idris Elba (Thor) and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) circling other roles.
The initial rap against this film – in part – was that Sony had selected an October 2012 release date to capitalize on next year’s election and bolster Obama’s flagging re-election hopes. As I expressed in my initial Terror Watch, though, it didn’t seem very likely to me that Bigelow would even be able to make that date – and sure enough the movie has now been pushed off to mid-December, probably as late as Sony could go without dropping the film into January, a no-no for any film with award-season ambitions.
So what will the film be like? We simply don’t know yet. An interesting footnote, however: a competing Navy SEAL-bin Laden movie is already in the works called Code Name Geronimo, and yet another SEAL Team 6 project is currently being shopped around based on the new book SEAL Target Geronimo. Expect more of this sort of thing in the future. Someone might want to consider making a film, for example, called SEAL Team 6 Kills Code Name Geronimo bin Laden. Just a thought.
By Jason Apuzzo. With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I thought today would be a good time to launch a new series here at Libertas that I’ve been intending to do for a while, called Terror Watch. Terror Watch will join our other ongoing Libertas series (Invasion Alerts, Cold War Updates, Sword & Sandal Reports) and will cover the new wave of films, TV series, video games and even graphic novels dealing with the War on Terror.
The very fact that we’re able to do such a series is representative of a gradual and welcome change that’s taken place in Hollywood and popular culture over the past several years, a change whereby positive depictions of the War on Terror as a just and necessary cause are no longer considered taboo in entertainment circles. This change has been building for several years now (and has already been rippling through science fiction for quite a while), although it was accelerated considerably this past May by Navy SEAL Team 6’s successful mission against Osama bin Laden – an event that appears to have semi-officially opened a new chapter in Hollywood’s willingness to depict the struggle against terrorism as a vital activity.
And although one might be tempted to treat this development as coming too late to affect the public’s morale regarding the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, my sense is that how history perceives those conflicts is still very much up for grabs, especially for younger Americans – and so this new trend is one that I very much welcome. This does not mean, of course, that all of the projects we’ll be discussing will be very good – I suspect quite a few may be dreadful – but I advise people to keep an open mind. Certainly several recent projects – The Devil’s Double and Four Lions, most notably – have really been superb, and overall I think there is reason for optimism.
Why optimism, you might ask? Because Hollywood isn’t as dominated as it used to be by the Baby Boomers.
For his Washington Times article today entitled, “Hollywood AWOL in War on Terrorism,” my colleague Christian Toto kindly asked me to comment on Hollywood’s overall reaction, ten years on, to 9/11 and the War on Terror. Here is what I said:
Jason Apuzzo, conservative filmmaker and editor of Libertas Film Magazine, says politics clearly played a role in Hollywood’s initial reaction to 9/11. “Their primary response [to 9/11] was to ignore it,” Mr. Apuzzo says. But that appears to be changing, witness the upcoming film on Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of Navy SEALs due for release next year, as well as director Peter Berg’s adaptation of “Lone Survivor,” a film detailing the hunt for a Taliban leader. “As the baby boomers start to retire off the scene in Hollywood, it’s becoming less of a factor,” Mr. Apuzzo says of the industry’s politically charged greenlighting process. “Younger people are not as hesitant about dealing with this issue.”
Many people nowadays believe that the Obama Presidency is the primary reason behind whatever change of heart there’s been in Hollywood of late regarding the War on Terror, and there is no doubt some truth in this. Yet while I’m sure that Obama’s Presidency – and specifically his successful management of the bin Laden raid – plays some role here, my sense is that this change was likely coming regardless, due to the gradual changeover of the industry to a younger (i.e., non-Baby Boomer) generation. By my experience, the younger Hollywood generation – and this includes the independent filmmaking world – is much less ideologically driven than the Boomers were, and are far less conflicted about the current war than was the Vietnam generation.
So this is ultimately why I’m optimistic: the people dominating Hollywood today are not the same people who were running the industry 10 years ago right after the 9/11 attacks. They are, instead, a generation driven by a desire to simply make careers for themselves – rather than to fight proxy culture-wars through the cinema, as their parents’ generation so often did.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the War on Terror projects that are heading our way down the tracks …