It's hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There's a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I'm referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They're expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam - but it's toned down for a wider audience.
Then you have VET Tv's Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt's Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck... It's really f*cking good.
With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said...
First thing's first. A Grunt's Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it's a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.
The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who's ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you'll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You'll see plenty of dicks, but that's kind of how deployments are...
There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.
There's also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You'll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.
One thing that I can't stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!
The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what's on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.
The film is crude. It's so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It's not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn't affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.
And that's alright. This film isn't made for everyone. It's made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.
I give it 5.56 Stars.
You can watch the trailer below.
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