One of the common complaints about Hollywood is that everything is either a reboot, remake, or sequel . Some of them are horrible, some are entertaining. “In a world” ( to use a movie trailer voice ) where Spider-Man can be rebooted three times in less than 20 years, with multiple sequels within the reboots — it’s a damn shame that some great war and military movies can’t get the 21st-century treatment. These aren’t necessarily the greatest war films of all time, but by virtue of relevance or the fact that they would look vastly better today, somebody needs to remake or reboot them. Here are the first ones that need to be done.
Released in 1983, WarGames was visionary given the state of computer technology at the time. A nerdy high-school computer hobbyist played by Matthew Broderick starts by hacking into his school’s mainframe to change his grades. Before long, while trying to preview a game company’s latest releases, he inadvertently breaches NORAD’s computer system. By playing an online game called “Global Thermonuclear War,” he nearly starts an actual nuclear war when NORAD believes the simulation is a real attack on the United States.
WarGames portrayed what was once a fringe subculture of gamers and hackers; viewers today would laugh at the eight-inch floppy discs and screeching 300-baud modems, but WarGames was cutting edge at the time. The pervasiveness of current computer technology is exactly why WarGames needs to be rebooted in the present day. If 1983’s NORAD fell for a few imaginary radar blips, what could a powerful modern AI engine do to raise international tensions in our wired society? Create Facebook and Twitter bots to enrage the populace, who then demand war from their politicians? The possibilities are endless.
The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen featured a cavalcade of the biggest names in Hollywood from the 1960s. Back then, all-star casts were the way movies got noticed in a crowded box office field. The Dirty Dozen definitely came to play with guys like Charles Bronson , Telly Savalas , Ernest Borgnine , Donald Sutherland , and even football star Jim Brown , all led by the tough but irreverent Lee Marvin . The movie blends gritty action with dark humor in a way that still reads as modern half a century later.
In the story, Marvin’s character, Maj. John Reisman, recruited military death-row convicts for a suicide mission deep in Nazi-occupied France in exchange for commutations. Marvin has to corral his band of miscreants while fighting both the Germans and Big Army, as they try to thwart his outside-the-box methods.
It’s a funny movie, but also one of the great examples of the ‘60s action-movie genre. War movies before it was released in 1967 tended towards blind jingoism. Those afterwards tended toward anti-war activism. The Dirty Dozen hits the sweet spot of action and sarcasm.
Unlike during World War II, the military doesn’t have a prison full of death-row inmates sitting around these days, but I’m sure a good scriptwriter could find a way to provide a modern-day crop of troublemakers for Reisman to recruit. Of course, the new suicide mission would be against a gathering of key ISIS leaders or perhaps Kim Jong Un’s inner circle, not Nazis at a cocktail party. Dark, but funny.
Think Suicide Squad, if Suicide Squad didn’t suck.
This 1980 Australian film is definitely the most obscure movie on the list, but also perhaps the best. Edward Woodward (of the original Equalizer TV series ) plays Lt. “Breaker” Morant, accompanied by a bunch of great Aussie actors you’ve definitely never heard of. Based on a true story , three Australian officers are on trial for executing enemy prisoners during the brutal Boer War in South Africa. During the course of the trial, we see the ethical dilemmas that led up to the trial, both on the parts of the defendants and British commanders.
The British Army wants to sweep the brutal tactics used in the Boer War under the rug. The officers on trial faced the same ethical challenges fighting a counterinsurgency at the turn of the 19th century as leaders today, and when they go outside regulations, they have to decide whether to save their own lives at trial by lying or face the consequences of their actions.
In the movie, Breaker says “Rule 303,” referring to the iconic Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, is the source of his authority to kill the prisoners. He had the means, so he did it. “Rule 303” appears in every counterinsurgency sooner or later.
Movies depicting modern conflict usually fail in depicting these moral quandaries, either by being overly melodramatic or by avoiding them altogether. Keeping a remake in its original era would allow it to explore the moral dilemmas it shares with today’s wars. But, it allows enough distance to remain objective and keep it from becoming political.