Very seldom have I been so surprised by a movie. What I thought was going to be a stupid, slapstick comedy turned into a reflection on courage and friendship (and stupidity), and a dynamic, complex exploration of the Vietnam War.
Basically, a drunken mariner goes to Vietnam to deliver beer to his friends: initially to prove to that he does follow through with his word (which he rarely does), but later out of dogged loyalty. You can see where I got my initial impression from. Also, it’s Zac Efron stars in it—the guy from Baywatch. Come on.
This movie shattered all my expectations. It turned out to be one of the most intimate and ‘real’ portrayals of war I’ve seen—not because I know anything about the technicalities of battle, but because it is war experienced by a civilian, like me. We feel the protagonist’s shock when he discovers this is more than just a dangerous game—because, unconsciously, without having experienced war, that is what we think. Like Chickie (the main character), we undergo a transformation; our naivety is shattered by the realities of war. By showing battle from the perspective of a civilian, and by injecting innocent humour, a powerful contrast is created, culminating in a feeling verging on disbelief and horror. This almost absurd story creates a realistic and relatable portrayal of the Vietnamese war, that captures much of its chaos and senselessness.
If I had to pick one thing that bothered me: Zac Efron’s character is pretty much perfect. His only flaw—his overwhelming stupidity—was depicted in an endearing manner, resulting from an excess of the heart rather than a deficiency of the mind. It only added to his charm, and is cast off in the end in favour of a more reflective demeanor. To some extent, Zac Efron still plays a ‘pretty boy’, albeit an unusual one.
But I can forgive the director for that. Because, best of all: its all true. The greatest beer run ever really happened. In fact, Chickie wrote a memoir about it.
Its a crazy world we live in…