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Film: The Green Berets

"One hundred men will test today, but only three win the Green Beret."
Barry Sadler, Ballad of the Green Berets

A war film released in 1968, starring and directed by none other than John Wayne. It was the height of The Vietnam War and public opinion in the US was already at the tipping point.note  The Duke was unhappy with the protests and general discontent that surrounded him. In order to counteract that, he decided to make a film about the Army's elite Special Forces, also known by their nickname "Green Berets".

The film is about a reporter named George Beckworth (David Janssen), who is very critical of the war and is reporting on a group of Green Berets who are about to leave for Vietnam. Initially, he has a low opinion of the "brainwashed" soldiers but when asked if he has ever been to Vietnam, he realizes that he does not really know what the situation on the ground is like and decides to travel there to see the war for himself. When Beckworth gets to Vietnam, he finds that it is nothing like what the critics back home have been saying and is forced to confront his own personal beliefs out in the unforgiving jungle.

The film was very controversial for its pro-Saigon and American stance. Critics were upset with how it seemed to glorify the war and painted an overly simplistic picture of what was actually going on. Oliver Stone was inspired to create Platoon after seeing the film and it is partially a response to this one. Incidentally, more than a few currently serving Special Forces soldiers have cited it as an inspiration for their decision to wear the Green Beret.

The Green Berets provides examples of:

  • Backed by the Pentagon: After Wayne bought out Robin Moore, the original author's, share in the production. The Pentagon was trying to prosecute him for revealing classified information.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played straight; George Takei plays as a handsome South Vietnamese commander, and his Viet Cong counterpart is anything but.
  • Bias Steamroller: John Wayne thought that this was why the film received such negative reviews; the media weren't criticizing the film so much as the war itself.
  • Black and White Morality: America and the South are good. The communists are evil. It's that simple.
  • Booby Trap: A very nasty example in the form of the punji stakes used by the Vietcong. Characters talk about how they are coated in filth so they will infect any wounds and a little girl who got caught in one is later treated by Sergeant McGee.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Averted by the Green Berets, who portrayed more realistically as advisors and leaders rather than one-man armies.
  • Gatling Good: In the form of a Gunship Rescue from a AC-47 "Puff The Magic Dragon" gunship. Incidentally, this was one of the first depictions of an electric-driven Gatling gun on film, making it something of an Ur Example.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer
  • John Wayne: In addition to directing, he played Mike Kirby, one of the main characters.
  • Rebel Leader: Captain Nim, who commands the Montagnards. He hates the communists as much, if not more, than the Americans.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The reporters in the opening scene ask leading questions suggesting that they see all soldiers like this.
  • Spiritual Successor: Act of Valor has been called The Green Berets for The War on Terror.
  • Straw Character: Beckworth is a straw anti-war reporter, who does a complete 180 after seeing the humanitarian work the soldiers do, witnessing a North Vietnamese attack, and understanding why America is fighting.
  • The Squad:
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: A choral arrangement of "Ballad of the Green Berets" used at the beginning.
  • Tagalong Kid: Hamchuck.

The Great SilenceFilms of the 1960sThe Green Slime
The Great RaidMilitary and Warfare FilmsThe Guns of Navarone

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