Judge Daryl Loomis does not take orders well.
"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."—Dwight D. Eisenhower
War effects the soldiers who participate in ways we are only beginning to understand. The horrors they witness and, unfortunately, sometimes commit are impossible for red civilian pacifists like myself to fathom. At times in history, wars have been necessary, but whether the conflict comes from a noble cause or from lies and misinformation, the individual soldiers have one single directive: to kill. In the one place where murder is not only legal, but encouraged, it's easy to see how atrocities can occur. What surprises me is how few soldiers speak out to the public about their experiences. Surely they regret the things they've seen and done, but the indoctrination that they've been subjected to seems to prevent most from accepting and talking about it. Those few brave enough to say something are very important to the war debate; their personal perspective is one most in the conversation cannot see and need to hear. The five subjects in The Good Soldier do just that. Highly decorated ex-soldiers from four different wars, these men tell their stories in great detail, describing what it was that turned them from loyal soldiers to anti-war advocates.
They aren't just political tools, however, sitting there being anti-war for the sake of it. These were people who joined up for the right reasons. They felt their duty to their country, wanted to make something of themselves, needed direction in their lives. They fought, led, and killed for their nation, earning medals and promotions. For all of them, however, there was a point at which they could take no more. They stopped seeing the point of the battle and couldn't conceive of killing another enemy. They couldn't even see them as an enemy anymore. Though each of these soldiers have far disparate stories, fighting in places all over the world and from three separate generations, their thoughts all have one thing in common. To each of them, war is inherently dehumanizing. In no way does it ennoble anybody and in no way does it make somebody great. Each of these men now works to spread their wisdom, to try to make others understand the inherent tragedy of war.
Directors Lexy Lovell and Michael Uyes mix their interviews with relevant archival footage. The war footage, taken from many sources, is often amazing, but sometimes quite difficult to watch. Lovell and Uyes pull no punches with what they show; much of it is brutally violent and sad. This is necessary, however, to drive home what the subjects say, which is even more brutal and sad than the imagery. Thankfully, we don't have to see the man who made a necklace out of the ears of people he's tortured; hearing about it is more than enough. No matter how brutal, it is important to have it reinforced that anything told to people about the nobility or chivalry or heroism of war is said by people who don't have to stand on the front lines and commit the murders forced onto the soldiers.
The Good Soldier comes from Out of the Blue Productions and, while it is a bare bones disc, the audio and video quality is strong overall. The archival footage is clearly of mixed quality, but all of it has been rendered well on the transfer. Much of it is heavily damaged, of course, and the WWII shots are fairly difficult to see because of the scratches, but it it is as good as could be expected. The stereo sound is adequate for the interviews and there is little else going on in the sound design. There are a few songs mixed in here and there, and they're somewhat soft, but I don't really like a lot of those songs, anyway. There are no extras.
These are strong, cogent arguments, but not ones that will sit well with some viewers. Warmongers will hear things they don't want to hear from the last people they want to hear it from, but they're who need to hear it most. For me, it's preaching to the choir, but it is nonetheless a very persuasive film. The subjects are earnest and emotional about what they believe, and they are welcome voices into what is too often a debate based on political posturing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Out of the Blue Productions
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