From the Archives

Looking for the Colonel Jessup discussion I referenced in my last post, I came across the post “GOOD MOVIE, WRONG LESSON,” written on January 31, 2003 and imported over from the original blogspot site (unfortunately, owing to then-existing vagaries, sans comments).  It was the fourth substantive post and fifth total post ever on the site, written on my first day as a blogger:

Jonah Goldberg’s column today is an excellent example of how you can agree with someone’s conclusions but strongly object to their argument. Yes, the Tom Cruise character in “A Few Good Men” was a smart-aleck pretty boy (as he is in all of his watchable movies; he’s dreadful when he tries to go against type). Yes, the Jack Nicholson character (Colonel Jessep) had some great lines and it was easy to cheer for some of them. But Jessup was a villain in the flick. However well intentioned, he believed himself above the rules of his society and ordered his subordinates to break the law, with the tragic result of killing one of the men under his command. And then covering it up rather than taking responsibility. Not exactly heroic. I’d hate for Jessep to be the role model for American foreign policy. And, getting to Goldberg’s direct point, while it’s true that the US provides the lion’s share of the NATO defense burden, that doesn’t mean the Europeans have lost all right to dissent. They’re sometimes (okay, usually) annoying, but they aren’t our subordinates; they’re sovereign states with a rather different set of interests. Indeed, that’s the reason we need to preserve the option to act “unilaterally” rather than having all our actions subject to a NATO or UN veto.

I’d stand by every bit of that still, except for the jab at Cruise.  He’s subsequently done quite well in other types of roles. I’d also use paragraph breaks.

FILED UNDER: OTB History, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Of course Col. Jessup was a villian. He had to be to relay the essential truth that Mr. Reiner and Mr. Sorkin wished to convey.




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  2. James Joyner says:

    Of course Col. Jessup was a villian. He had to be to relay the essential truth that Mr. Reiner and Mr. Sorkin wished to convey.

    They’re lefties but they portrayed the military in a very favorable light, I thought. Indeed, I was just out of the Army when I saw it and it became a favorite movie.

    All the characters were sterling types except Lt. Caffey, who becomes the hero of the film by finally “getting” what it means to live according to a code, and Jessep, who is the villain because he takes his code to extremes and forgets why he’s living by the damn thing to begin with.

    Otherwise, the Marines, except for the slow young Pfc Downey and perhaps the quirky LtCol Markinson, were hoo-rah, standup guys.




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  3. Ben says:

    I always thought that Kevin Bacon’s Captain Ross played a great example of a principled lawyer. Especially the part when he said,” I don’t think your boys belong in jail, but I don’t get to make that decision. I represent the government of the United States without passion or prejudice. And my client has a case.” Perfect. I wish everyone who wants to shoot all the lawyers would think about what he said for a minute.




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  4. James Joyner says:

    I always thought that Kevin Bacon’s Captain Ross played a great example of a principled lawyer.

    Right. And he was also a model Marine.




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  5. sam says:

    Right. And he was also a model Marine.

    Try and catch him in Taking Chance on HBO. My brother did some escort duty…not a pleasant experience.

    Jessep, who is the villain because he takes his code to extremes and forgets why he’s living by the damn thing to begin with.

    Reminiscent of Alec Guinness’s Colonel Nicholson (damn, just twigged to that irony) in The Bridge on the River Kwai. That Colonel Nicholson came to realize what taking the code to extremes meant and died undoing his mistake.




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  6. tom p says:

    except for the jab at Cruise. He’s subsequently done quite well in other types of roles. I’d also use paragraph breaks.

    While I quite often find him tiresome, I thought he was very good in “Collateral”




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  7. sam says:

    Perhaps I can relay how unpleasant that duty can be. My brother was tasked with escorting the remains of black Marine back to his home for burial. Home was a little town somewhere in the deep South, I can’t recall where. At the funeral service, the mother was hysterical. She cried “My baby, my baby, I want to see my baby.” My brother tried to dissuade her, saying, “M’am, I don’t think that would be a good idea.” He hadn’t seen what was in the coffin, but he just felt it was probably not a good idea to open it. But she wouldn’t be dissuaded. When they opened the coffin, there was a full set of dress blues layed out, and on top of it was a small, carefully wrapped bundle about the size of a loaf of bread. That was all that was left of him. The burial took place in a driving rain storm, and the Marines slipped and slid carrying the coffin up a hill to the grave site, the mother out of her mind with grief all the way up the hill.




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  8. I’ve watched Taking Chance a couple of times now and can highly recommend it to everyone. Quite the tear jerker. Against my, and a lot of people’s expectations, HBO did the subject matter and the institutions represented justice and didn’t turn it into a referendum or soapbox on the war, the military, the administration, or anything else. Well done HBO.




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  9. tom p says:

    I’ve watched Taking Chance a couple of times now and can highly recommend it to everyone.

    I haven’t seen it yet (I don’t have TV)(tho I look forward to getting it on NETflix). But I also highly recommend “Operation Homecoming” by PBS (it is the inspiration for “Taking Chance”) available via NETFLIX on line. If you are a member, WATCH IT NOW! (no politics, no bs), if you aren’t a member, sign up for this show alone. You won’t be sorry.

    Also, the book is on my “to buy” list.




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  10. tom p says:

    Perhaps I can relay how unpleasant that duty can be. My brother was tasked with escorting the remains of black Marine back to his home for burial.

    Not to hijack this thread into a discussion about race but,… Some years ago I was involved in a cave rescue in which 7 people (2 adults, 5 children) died. It was tuff, really tuff (did you know blacks turn blue when they drown? They do) But the hardest part was the wakes. I did not go to any of the funerals for the children (they had all been placed into a “home” due to “family” problems) but I did go to a Memorial Service for the children. That was not so bad.
    The next day I went to the wakes for the 2 Counselers… One was a young black man from the north side of St. Louis, the other was a young white girl from South St. Louis County. First was the black mans(I should note that I was the only one of the rescuers to go there)… It was not easy, but all of the family appreciated the fact that I came. While there was much lamenting of the fact that “why do we lose the good ones so young”, the basic thrust was, “Here was a life, he did alot of good in his short time here, we need to celebrate that.” and they did.

    I left that wake feeling a whole lot better for having done the best I could, even if it came up short of the desired goals (point of fact, he was dead long before I got there).

    Then I went to the girls wake… a diametric experience. It was all about what they had lost (and they had lost more than I can almost imagine) but nothing at all about what they had gained from having that girl amongst them. I left that wake wanting to slit my wrists, and never wanting to do another rescue. (I have, but it was not by choice).

    Point is, blacks seemed to accept death of their youth (they did not like it anymore, just accepted it) then did whites. If it hadn’t happened on the same night, I probably would not have seen it (back in my younger days, I buried a lot of friends, both black and white)

    The next day, (weeks, months) I pondered long and hard the differences of that night, and I have no great insights. But I know which family moved forward with strength and conviction, and which did not.




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  11. FWIW, I do not regard Taking Chance as a conservative, liberal, or any other political flavor movie. If anything, I’d call it a patriotic or maybe even an educational movie, and neither of those have anything to do with the conventional political labels.

    Wandering far afield here, but I think it would be great if high schools included something like Taking Chance in a mandatory civics class just so students learn there is a difference between a soldier and a marine (and a salior and an airman), get exposed to the high standards of professionalism in the military, and even something as basic as what a long line of cars with their headlights on means.




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  12. Bithead says:

    I wish everyone who wants to shoot all the lawyers would think about what he said for a minute.

    Whereas I wish all the folks… lawyers, mostly… who object to Shakespeare’s axiom, understood the reason it’s so very popular, is that so few lawyers are willing to follow Bacon’s axoim, or even to recognize the implications of it.




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