I have this thing about modern war flicks. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are something that has been a part of our daily lives for the past decade. It’s almost hard for me to remember a time when there wasn’t a brief news blurb about the number of troops killed today. I have nothing but respect for those brave few that decide to put their lives on the line to go to a country that our government, and the governments of several nations, have chosen to occupy. Say what you want about the effectiveness of the wars and what western nations are accomplishing today. I don’t know enough about the subject to comment. I think most Americans are about as ignorant as I am on the subject as well. There was a time in my life when I seriously considered joining up and although I chose not to, I feel that those that do are some of the bravest folks on earth today. When a film comes out about post war life it’s with great skepticism that I view it, if I choose to view it at all. I’m not interested in watching films that demonize troops. I’m not interested in some assholes opinion who wasn’t there and has never served. I honestly skip any Hollywood attempt at the subject, knowing that I won’t enjoy it. It is with this critical eye that I viewed The Veteran. Honestly, I almost skipped this one too. But i’m glad i didn’t.
The Veteran is dark as hell British flick about a young man who decides he’s had enough of the war. A decorated hero, he returns to the London slum he came from to try to re-integrate into civilian society. Suffering from ptsd, he sets out to make his way in the world again. He returns to find that a vicious gang has taken over the neighborhood and his Muslim friend’s little brother has been caught up with the gang. This gang problem is plot line 1. Plot 2 comes from an ex military buddy. They grab a beer at the local strip joint and it turns out that his buddy’s older brother is involved with some covert op stuff, monitoring and trying to bring down terrorist cells in London. He’s asked to join and thus begins his involvement with the shadowy group, gathering intel. By day he gathers intel and risks his life doing so, by night he has to deal with the gang’s control over his apt building and his friend’s run ins with them.
The Veteran is complex, gritty, and bleak. Our hero tries to make a difference in the war overseas, becomes disenfranchised and comes home to find out the war is on his on turf. Either by terrorists committing Jihad or by common criminals trying to take over with drugs and violence. He is a man who once again finds himself fighting other people’s battles. He has a need to use his skills to improve the lives of those around him, the eternal, if reluctant hero. The Veteran is realistic and violent committing to a serious as a heart attack vibe from the beginning and never devolving into cartoonish violence ala Death Wish. Our main character is basically a more competent and socially/physically capable Travis Bickle. He wants to make a difference but just ends up with more trouble and ultimately being ineffective in trying to stop terrorists, win a war, or simply help his friend. Its a brutal look at life and the film manages to be anti-war without being anti-soldier, a difficult task to be sure. A strong film, a film that will likely fly right under most folks’ radar, and like the main character I’m just trying to do my part and spread the word. The Veteran is a worthwhile, powerfully f’d up film in the way only the British can do it.