Since the start of the Iraq war there's been a number of attempts to relay the soldier/veteran experience through films both fictional and documentary. Now comes Hollywood's latest production The Lucky Ones (trailer), which stars Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Pena as Iraq veterans on a road trip across the United States. You could say making this movie is somewhat of a bold move. In fact, a headline in Florida alt-weekly Creative Loafing reads: "Can The Lucky Ones break the Iraq war-movie jinx?" Historically Iraq movies (and one TV show) have done poorly, sometimes drawing criticism for the actual storyline and other times falling victim to what some see as a general lack of interest among American moviegoers.
Movie critics have pointed to the fact Americans already see the war everyday on the news (at least, for many years they did), and fictionalized portrayals simply don't have the escapism movies can provide. Then there's the over-saturation of political messages some of the movies contained. Washington Times movie critic Christian Toto told NPR last year: "
Dramas about returning Iraq war veterans haven't received nearly so warm a welcome. The first, Irwin Winkler's Home of the Brave, opened in New York and LA shortly before Christmas 2006 and was released a little more widely the following summer, mostly near military bases, but it quickly vanished. Clearly modeled on The Best Years of Our Lives, it followed three soldiers as they tried to adjust to life in a country that didn't want to think about them or the war they'd been fighting. I wouldn't call it a knockout, but it had some powerful scenes, particularly those involving Jessica Biel as a soldier who'd lost a hand and was now forced to make do with a big, clumsy prosthesis obviously designed for a man. Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss, an MTV-produced drama about three young grunts returning from the war to their stars-and-stripes Texas town, got a more respectful rollout from Paramount Pictures this past March, but it flopped, grossing less than half its $25 million production cost.
How The Lucky Ones does is anyone's guess at this point. The initial reviews aren't bad but they aren't great either. The Cleveland Plain Dealer had this to say:
"The Lucky Ones," co-writer/director Neil Burger's credible if unremarkable follow-up to his extraordinary "The Illusionist," refers to soldiers returning from Iraq in one piece...What follows is a series of occasionally funny encounters, as well as some soapy complications not so unpleasant as they are predictable. There are the requisite moving moments, too, making "The Lucky Ones" no more or less noteworthy than the slew of war movies preceding it in the last year or two.
An observation you'll see made in reviews of the movie is the script's use of humor where other Iraq movies may have remained humorless. The San Jose Mercury News weighs in on how this all works out:
Here are a few links to other movies/TV shows about the Iraq war:
In the Valley of Elah
Over There (TV)
Home of the Brave
Generation Kill (TV miniseries)