Magazine article The Spectator

Men Only

Magazine article The Spectator

Men Only

Article excerpt

I think it's about time someone explained to women how to watch war films. They just don't get them, in much the same way men don't get handbags or expensive girl-shoes. They think it's all boring and that the characters all look the same, so how can you care about them? They think there's far too much shooting and killing and violence and horror and bang bang bang and it's like watching paint dry. They'd rather let you watch on your own, if you don't mind, while they go upstairs and read in the bath.

This is how my wife feels about The Pacific (Sky Movies Premiere, Monday) and I expect it's how your wife/mistress/girlfriend/ daughter/mother feels about it, too. They think they're taking the clever, sophisticated position here, while you, the man, are basically a Neanderthal enslaved by your primal killing instincts. Actually, though, in this case it's the girls who are being obtuse.

What they're in fact demonstrating here is an utter failure not just of imagination but also of the thing they're supposed to be best at - empathy.

I'll give you an example from part two of The Pacific, which, as you must surely be aware by now, is the Steven Spielberg/ Tom Hanks follow-up to Band of Brothers, with US Marines fighting Japs on Pacific atolls instead of US Airborne fighting Germans in northern Europe. I'm thinking of the 12-minute battle scene where dug-in Marines are desperately trying to hold the line against numerically superior Japanese.

Superficially, it is indeed groups of indistinguishable men in olive drab with big helmets in the dark mowing down Japs who are only briefly visible by the muzzle flash of the guns that are killing them. There's a telling moment that even acknowledges this: a rifleman gazes in awe at the .30-cal machine-gunner next to him traversing right and left firing burst after burst, as if to say, 'Jeez. I never thought one guy could kill so many Japs.'

The mistake girls make is to assume that its main boy appeal is the quasi-pornographic thrill we get from seeing so many Japs wasted. But, in fact, that's mere salad dressing. The real thing that keeps us on the edge of our seats, mouths open, eyes agog, feet jiggling nervously is that we're all thinkqing, 'There but for the grace of God go I!'

We're desperately excited about that .30cal machine-gunner and have a personal investment in his Jap-mowing success because we know how pivotal he is in holding the line, what a disaster it will be if his gun jams, and exactly what will happen if the enemy overruns the position. …

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