The background is this: Friday night on the way home, some dumbassed yuppie on the bus was yaking loudly on thie phone about how he didn’t want to see it, because he didn’t need to see another movie about how bad America was. The yuppie in question later went on to suggest An American Carol instead, apparently preferring Naked Gun director David Zucker to Ridley Scott.
The thing about Ridley Scott is that he’s Tom Clancy with a camera,
and has been going all the way back to Aliens (space marines are James Cameron’s invention). The villains are whoever the protagonist is fighting, and occasionally the protagonists’ boss for getting in their way or stabbing them in the back. So there is a huge gulf of poliitcally-inspired madness to cross in order to start complaining about Ridley Scott being insufficiently patriotic. It’s also possible that the film is being advertised as something other than it really is.
The protagonists’ bosses, to be sure, dole out a large dose of arrogance and incompetence. Russel Crowe’s character seems equally incapable of raising his children as he is at completing any single on-the-job task, but that’s pretty much how it seems like “The War” is being fought—a bunch of people without a clue what is going on, flailing about with high explosives.
There is also Scott’s trademark muddled heavy-handedness with the morality moments: the primary antagonist announcing “Welcome to Guantanamo” shortly before torturing DeCaprio—which triggers flashback sequences of DeCaprio watching U.S. forces torture a prisoner to death. The apparent final morality of DeCaprio resigning in disgust to go off and earn the trust of his new Iranian girlfriend is equally heavy-handed. Scott wants you to get the point, but he doesn’t want to just come out and say it. So you end up with a lot of teasing to get you to say out loud what he was thinking.
It just comes off as irritating since all the morals are things you’ll hear repeatedly if you bothered to read anything about the subject: “Bush Administration is tremendously incompetent,” “Torturing prisoners puts U.S. POWs at risk of being tortured,” and “Americans have a long way to go before anybody in the Middle East trusts us.” There’s no secret insight to any of this. None of these morals are radical, or anti-American—I’m fairly certain most of the military leadership today agrees with these sentiments.
The issue of the entire military intelligence-oriented framework of the U.S. efforts to stop Islamic-oriented terrorism is brought up in the first line, only to be explicitly brushed aside. I suppose that’s really the ultimate moral of the movie: don’t get your hopes up when the first thing that happens is a main character trying to confine your range of acceptable thought.