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Every War Movie Is a Pro-War Movie?!

And what does a “thoroughly, effectively” anti-war film look like?
Grave of the Fireflies - Isao Takahata

In his review of Lone Survivor, a based-on-a-true-story war movie starring Mark Wahlberg as a Navy SEAL, Calum Marsh argues that every war movie is a pro-war movie:

…it’s important to remember that despite their moralizing, war films are still essentially action films — blockbuster spectacles embellished by the verve and vigor of cutting-edge special effects. They may not strictly glorify. But they almost never discourage.
All war films have heroes, for understandable reasons: to give audiences someone to root for, and because soldiers often really are heroic. But when a film like Lone Survivor transforms its Navy SEALs into infallible supermen tragically bested, it suggests that these men are role models only in death — that it was war that made them noble and heroic. The carnage and difficulties only underline the message. War isn’t great; war makes you great. What is such a sentiment if not pro-war?

Now, to be fair to Marsh, I don’t disagree with everything he writes. There are certainly plenty of war and action movie ​“spectacles” that depict violence with a certain sheen of ​“coolness” (via editing, special effects, etc.) that minimizes the horror of war and its terrible human cost. But at the same time, what an incredibly narrow definition of what constitutes a ​“war movie.”

Near the article’s end, Marsh posits that ​“it isn’t clear what a thoroughly, effectively anti-war film would look like.” I’m going to assume that Marsh has never seen Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. I challenge Marsh, or anybody for that matter, to watch that film — which depicts, in often graphic and heart-breaking detail, the effects of war on the innocent — and walk away with the notion that it’s anything but ​“thoroughly, effectively” anti-war.

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