Friday, June 8, 2012

The Veteran: Stolid Action

If I didn't have NetFlix right now I would probably kill myself. Seriously, why do you stupid fuckers keep feeding your cash to the worst crapfests Hollywood can crank out? I saw The Avengers last weekend and I think I have PTSD from all the hyper-self-conscious one-liners. Joss Whedon is a cancer...

This all left me craving something slow and methodical. The Veteran is very methodical and even more very slow but I feel like I was intentionally misreading it.

The story goes that this ex-Para, Miller, is just back from Afghanistan and needs to fit himself back into civilian life. I'll credit general Brit gloominess for making this work because there is nothing maudlin in Miller's plight. He just needs to get his shit together and has no help.

Except when he does get help - some former comrade meets him at a bar and introduces him to some Brit spook who needs "a man I can count on." And here is where the film becomes two stories and my intentional misreading of things begins.

Earlier, Miller witnessed his friend trying to get his little brother out of a gang and the little brother - like any twelve-year-old boy - was a despicable little shit about it and ran off to stay with the gangsters. This is followed as the B-plot for much of the movie despite being the more interesting. There was a slew of similar American films following Vietnam where a vet comes home, sees the hometown going to shit thanks to gangs and drugs, and goes a little postal trying to make things right. Good action-thriller material that's both bleak and smart.

...But that's overshadowed by the A-plot of Miller working with the spooks to foil a terrorist attack. An attack said spooks are actually engineering, as they've engineered every attack as a means of keeping folks scared and controlled. Brian Cox lays this all out explicitly in a scene that had to give the Loose Change retards conspiracy-boners.

Miller naturally burns his bridges with the spooks and goes on a rampage against the local gangs. Because they're assholes and shooting assholes is heartwarming. And to the film's credit, this sequence is played for realism all the way to the depressing end.

And that's where my misreading comes in.

See, the B-plot isn't just better. It feels more real. The whole spooks-secretly-behind-terrorism stuff is like a Tom Clancy knock-off as understood by Jesse Ventura... But it fits if you assume it's all in Miller's head. He's having such a terrible time adjusting to the doldrums of civilian life, he's concocted an elaborate James Bond fantasy for himself in which he stops the terrorists, the evil spooks, and even saves the girl. He doesn't even have to kill his buddy that got him into this because said buddy is loyal to Miller. This is all then juxtaposed against the misery and decay of urban Britain, where the bad guys are lethal but small fish you can never be rid of. And the people you try to rescue don't care for the help, having quite willingly signed up with the wrong side.

That there would be a great film. But Miller goes on his climactic rampage with an Armalite pinched from the terrorists so this is really all as presented. Shame, we could've used a newer and more nuanced angle on the crazy vet story.

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