Who's in It:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper
The Basics: A frustrated Marine sniper waits for Operation Desert Storm to get going. Then it's over before it even begins.
What's the Deal? The week after Kurt Cobain died, all these baby boomers at my then-job came to me asking about him, sensitively inquiring about my "Generation X experience." This is the movie equivalent of the non-comprehending shrug I gave them as an answer. It's about people waiting around for something definitive to happen and, when it does (yet only briefly and not to them), they realize that the only story they'll have to tell their grandkids is, "We were bored and watched a lot of movies."
Those Movies: The desertwaiting-room grunts sit through several war movies — making director Sam Mendes' job of commenting on them a whole lot easier — and of course they're groupthink blood-lusty, cheering the napalm of Apocalypse Now and going nuts when The Deer Hunter suddenly switches gears and becomes a homemade porn tape.
Why It's Better Than American Beauty: Both are about being stuck in ridiculous, soul-crushing surroundings — war, suburbia — and Beauty worked itself into a third-act spaz-attack of life lessons. This one dangles that catharsis in front of you and then denies you the creepy pleasure. Which is cool.
OK, This Part Was Lame, But I Still Laughed: A helicopter blasting a loud Doors song flies over the soldiers and Gyllenhaal says, "Can't we get our own f--king music?" It's just a setup for a later scene in which you get the answer, as he stares into the camera deadpan, while a bummer of a Nirvana song plays. Get it? Huh? Get it?
Michael Moore Haters: You can relax. There's only an ounce or two of politicizing from one character played by grown-up Sling Blade kid Lucas Black. That is, unless you count the entire movie as being about the rock-stupid nature of war. And really, what war movie with a half a brain isn't going to be that these days?