One of my biggest pet peeves is military movies that get the military culture, and most annoyingly, researchable, verifiable facts WRONG. To me, it is inexcusable- there are a couple MILLION veterans who would be able to help the Hollywood nitwits out- not everyone has to hire Dale Dye.
At any rate, one of the most egregious and unforgiveable mistakes in recent history was in Courage Under Fire, that 2 hours of bilge, in which my beloved M1A1 Abrams was portrayed as a diesel belching monstrosity. I am not going to explain why this infuriated me (other than I was an M1A1 tanker)- you can go look it up. Then there was that little issue with the spent casings in the turret. Never mind.
At any rate, with much hesitation, I decided to rent and watch Basic tonight- it didn’t look to good, but I am a sucker for a military flick. About ten minutes into the movie, I noticed something that almost made me quit watching. For those who have never been in the military, this is the rank insignia for paygrade E-4, Specialist:
This is the rank insignia for paygrade E-5, Sergeant:
Notice the similarities? You shouldn’t – because there are none- Specialist is an enlisted rank, Sergeant is a Non-Commisioned Officer. They are distinctly different for a reason.
So why then would the main character of the movie, Master Sergeant West (portrayed by Samuel Jackson) a hard charging Ranger Platoon Sergeant, be wearing Specialist rank, when his rank should be this:
Laziness. Sheer, despicable, inexcuseable LAZINESS. Even if the rest of the movie is ok, I will remember only this. And they probably spent 40 million making the damn thing.
FWIW- I submitted it to Movie Mistakes.
Maybe in this case this was a not-on-purpose mistake, but they’re required by law to make mistakes with the uniforms. There’s no perfect American uniform in an American movie. We used to look for the film mistakes when I was in the service. They were all “out of uniform”.
“Maybe in this case this was a not-on-purpose mistake, but they’re required by law to make mistakes with the uniforms.”
I did not know that.
What’s the reasoning behind it? I mean, I can think of a couple good ones for this sort of policy, but it’s easier to ask somebody who actually knows, nu? :)
As an Army brat, I have also never understood why they can’t get the uniforms and behaviors down right. I don’t see why there should be a legal reason behind misrepresenting military uniforms and insignia…Are you sure about that?
But what always gets me the most is the hair. Some of the actors refuse (apparently) to get a soldier’s regulation haircut! Drives me mad.
Maybe this is just Army lore, but we were told that it’s from the law about not impersonating an officer, and that if we looked, we could find the mistake. I could never figure out why the enlisted uniforms are always wrong too, though.
Valerie- Same here. Their sergeant would be all over them about the hair. Also, in movies people seem to *really* be into wearing their cover indoors. LOL.
It does apply to NCO’s as well. Here’s a link:
Something that always bugged me was wildly inappropriate ages-50 year old lieutenants and 30ish generals. I suppose there are a few, but not many.
I’m also a sucker for a great war movie (and they are rare), you might want to check out
84 Charlie MoPic-a Vietnam LRP that goes wrong. Very low budget (shot with 1 handheld camera) but well worth a look.
When Trumpets Fade- a made for HBO about the battle of Hurtgen Forrest. Good, although there is one inexplicable scene where a guy sticks a cigarette up his ass, then another guy smokes it–why the director thought anyone in the world would want to see that is beyond me.
Path’s of Glory. 1950’s Stanley Kubrick. Not his best, but SK’s worst is better than most director’s best.
I have given up on this particular pet peeve; Hollywood will never get the military right. Crimson Tide is my ‘favourite’ in this genre; it may very well be the largest collection of Navy errors ever assembled on film. Not five minutes goes by without some kind of mistake, including, not incidentally, the source of the conflict that is the crux of the plot.
Ubiquitous military errors aside, I thought Basic was a pretty good flick.
Watching “The Hunt for Red October” at the base theater at Goodfellow AFB was a treat. A hundred-something Russian linguists roaring with laughter at Sean Connery’s Russian. :)
In Terminator 3 the Air Force officers had on pretty good uniforms, including the “Acquisition Badges” that you NEVER see.
Most war movies make up for it by getting all the uniforms really, really dirty so you can’t tell anyways. :)
I also rented Basic last night and I cannot believe how terrible of a movie it was. I have been serving in the Army for 11 years now and that movie was beyond bad.
1st- The movie was said to take place in 1980 and the cast were wearing berets and the class A uniform had a Kuwait Liberation Medal.
2nd- The SPC rank on the MSG was horrible.
I can only blame myself for renting this piece of garbage, one should know better that military movies and John Travolta don’t mix.
Just rented The Hunted and Benicio Del Toro received the Silver Star with a ratty haircut. He looked like a hobo with an army surplus jacket on. Really pisses me off. They disrespect men and women of service when they do that, although I don