erik lundegaard

Where in the world are Iraq War movies popular?

Discussions about box office tend to stop with Monday morning’s numbers and bad puns. So 21 “raked in the chips,” and Superhero Movie was “a superdud,” and Stop-Loss was “shot down at the box office.” Why not push the envelope? How about Stop-Loss was car bombed? Had its legs blown off? Got ambushed in an alleyway in Tikrit?

Admittedly Stop-Loss’s numbers weren’t great: $4.5 million; 8th place. But it played on only 1,291 screens, meaning its per-screen-average, while pretty sucky ($3,505), was still better than all but three films in the top 10. Unfortunately our discussions about box office don't go that far. Instead we make some bad puns and add Stop-Loss to the list of Iraq-war-film casualties: Lions for Lambs ($15 million domestic box office), Rendition ($9.7M), In the Valley of Elah ($6.7M) and poor, poor Redacted ($60K). Underperformers all. Cue taps.

Except: If Stop-Loss follows the example of these films, it will make most of its money abroad. Rendition made $14.9 million, or 61% of its total, abroad (U.K., mostly), while Lambs pulled in $41.9 million, or 74%, from foreign countries (Italy and Spain were the big spenders). Elah also made 74% of its total abroad (France and Spain, mostly), while Redacted, which couldn’t do much worse, didn’t, pulling in $600,000 (France and Spain, again), or 10 times what it earned here.

Is this something else Americans should be embarrassed about? We went into Iraq thinking it would be good entertainment, and for a while it was (Pvt. Jessica, “Mission Accomplished”), but when it turned serious we turned the channel. It was supposed to be a Jerry Bruckheimer flick, Shock and Awe, with clear heroes and villains, and it's become a complicated, hard-to-understand, morally ambiguous film out of the French New Wave. It's become Battle of Algiers.

Hollywood has tried to make it easy for us by making its Iraq War films about us, and setting the action here, in the U.S., but the source material is still that morally ambiguous, hard-to-understand, French New Wave film. So we're letting the foreigners figure it out. They're figuring it out over there so we don’t have to figure it out over here.

Yeah, we should be embarrassed. This is our national story but we can’t be bothered. Elah is a good movie but we can’t be bothered. Stop-Loss is another good movie, and it’s got handsome leads, and it’s about camaraderie, and the few sacrificing over and over again for the many, who are us, but we can’t be bothered.

How awful is that? We can't even be bothered with how little we're being bothered by the war. And how much others are sacrificing.

Thank God for France. 


Posted at 07:02 AM on Tue. Apr 01, 2008 in category Movies - Box Office, Culture, Movies - Foreign  
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COMMENTS

Chris Tatum wrote:

As an Army Veteran of 13 years, I gotta tell you it's hard work doing what a soldier does for a living. Hard work and a strong stomach to fight the part of us all that says...Give up, what's the point, who cares about them care about yourself!
But what's easy is complaining. Saying to hell with the other guy and complaining like that's just as good as working. And thank God for the soldiers that saved France. Great movie they made out of that. I'd love to see the movie Hollywood makes where an old soldier goes back to Baghdad 40 years from now, when it's free and reflects on the hardships he endured there.
The dictators on all the surrounding countries, the burkas on all the women, the beheadings and bodies dumped in the river. And the soldier will remember that while others pointed fingers on their way to Starbucks, he saved people's lives and rebuilt a country from a nightmare into a dream.
Comment posted on Wed. Apr 02, 2008 at 02:00 PM

Eric M. wrote:

It's always a danger in conflating the Iraq War with World War II. The problems in France were external, the problems in Iraq internal. France had a history of stable government (more or less) while Iraq didn't and doesn't. The new Iraq a dream? One hopes. But at the moment it feels like we've rebuilt their country from one nightmare and into another.
Comment posted on Sun. Apr 06, 2008 at 09:41 AM

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