'A Call to Spy' film tackles WW2 espionage - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Virginia Hall was one of the most successful espionage operatives of World War II, earning not only the contempt of the Gestapo, but also the Distinguished Service Cross — the only civilian woman to be so honored. As a spy, she organized agent networks, recruited the local population of occupied France to run safe houses, and aided in the escape of Allied prisoners of war.

Oh, and she did it all with a wooden leg named ‘Cuthbert.’

Hall’s story is coming to the big screen in the feature film A Call To Spy, written and produced by Sarah Megan Thomas, who also plays “the limping lady” herself alongside Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia) as Vera Atkins and Radhika Apte (Andhadhun) as Noor Inayat Khan. 

A Call To Spy features the unsung spies of Winston Churchill’s Secret Army — including their personal sacrifices, particular challenges and dangers, and social barriers that still resonate today.

Watch the trailer right here:

Virginia Hall was recruited by British spymaster Vera Atkins to report on German troop movements and recruit members for the resistance in France. Posturing as an American news reporter, she encoded messages into news broadcasts and passed encrypted missives to her contacts.

She signed up with the U.S. Office of Strategic Service and in 1944 she organized missions to sabotage the Germans. She is credited with more jailbreaks, sabotage missions, and leaks of troop movements than any other spy in France.

In a conversation with Thomas, I asked why she was drawn to tell this particular story. “I loved James Bond. I loved Dunkirk and 1917. But by and large, if a woman is in a military film, the story involves a romance — and I know they have more significant roles than that,” she told me. “I studied World War II spies extensively and finally uncovered the women in Churchill’s Secret Army. For my film, I decided to concentrate on women who were part of the mission before it became a success.” 

In studying women’s roles in particular during World War II, Thomas was surprised to discover just how many untold stories there actually are.

“In 1941, we were losing the war. Americans hadn’t yet joined the Allies. Women were recruited as an experiment. They were sent in because they were inconspicuous, they were unexpected. And it turned out they were very good spies,” Thomas observed.

“I was also surprised at how different the women were. Their only commonality was that they spoke French — but they came from all walks of life,” she explained. As women are featured more and more in stories previously centered on men, audiences are seeing the spectrum of personalities and strengths they have to offer.

A Call To Spy won the Audience Choice Award at Whistler Film Festival and the ADL Stand Up Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Thomas’ previous Sony Pictures Classic film Equity, a film about women on Wall Street, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Thomas created the concept, co-wrote the story, produced, and starred in the film alongside Anna Gunn.

“It’s important to tell all stories. It’s important to tell original stories. There are so many interesting stories yet to be told, and with the female lens we’re starting to see change happening. It’s exciting for diverse voices everywhere,” she told me.

A Call To Spy shares the 2020 challenge of being released during the COVID-19 pandemic. For an independent filmmaker, it came with a whole new host of challenges to solve. “We don’t have a $50 million press budget — we need word of mouth,” she explained. The film screened successfully and won awards at festivals before the pandemic, but afterwards Thomas and her team had to pivot.

She’s been following her own advice for emerging filmmakers: “Just do the work. It’s a difficult profession no matter what level you’re at — don’t let that be daunting. The right people will say yes at the right time.” Thomas is currently working on a mini-series that is a spin-off of the film.

“Audiences can expect a thrilling and entertaining spy film, but I also hope after they watch that there’s something to discuss on a personal level. How many people would put their lives on the line with such difficult odds? Right now we’re at a global crossroads — what sacrifices are we willing to make for each other?” she pondered.

Distributed by IFC films, A Call To Spy is currently available in some theaters or for streaming online.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

“Ain’t war hell?”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

See!

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

He was the guest of honor.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Neither game has a winner…

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Now that’s a war face.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 things you didn’t know about ‘Band of Brothers’

In 2001, DreamWorks and HBO Films released one of the most critically acclaimed miniseries. Band of Brothers follows a group of well-trained Army Paratroopers as they go from grueling training to being thrust into the hell that is World War II. The story chronicles the unique bond of the brave men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Spielberg proved his ability to faithfully capture the intensities and personalities of World War II in his 1998 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan. This time around, Spielberg took the executive producer’s chair.

Although many people are familiar with this amazing piece of film, there are a few facts about the classic miniseries that even the most die-hard fans don’t know.


Also Read: 6 things you didn’t know about ‘Top Gun’ (probably)

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The actors went through a tough, 10-week boot camp

To get the actors to appear like real paratroopers, the producers turned to decorated Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye to get the on-screen talent up-to-speed on World War II-era infantry tactics. Capt. Dye was on a mission to not only educate the talented cast on how to maneuver and communicate, but to expose the actors to the real exhaustion that paratroopers endured in combat.

This way, the actors would get an emotional understanding. When it was time to film a tough scene, they had their own personal references to draw from, making their reactions organic and realistic.

The uniforms

Since the miniseries covers multiple characters from different countries, the costume designers had to come up with 2,000 authentic German and American combat uniforms — including approximately 500 pairs of era-appropriate jump boots.

In order to get the details just right, the costume designers spent countless hours researching materials, manufacturing techniques, and design choices.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Tom Hanks watches as dozens of extras fall in line and head to the set

(HBO Films)

Set locations

The massive production took a total of three years and cost over 0 million. The scenes were shot primarily on a 1,100 acre back lot located in Hatfield, England. 12 acres of land were continuously modified in order to work for 11 different on-screen locales.

“It’s about five things bigger than what we had on Saving Private Ryan,” executive producer Tom Hanks reported.

Massive-scale pyrotechnics

Nearly every fan of film has seen 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Aside from the powerful performances from talented actors, the audience enjoyed incredibly lifelike explosions and gunshots. By the time the crew had finished filming the third episode of Band of Brothers, they’d already surpassed the number of explosions and squibs used in entirety of Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan had around half the budget of Band of Brothers.

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The Battle of the Bulge

While setting to film TheBattle of the Bulge,the production department constructed a massive forest inside an airport hangar. To make the scene feelrealistic, they neededvegetation. So,the production turned to the special effect department whobuilt nearly250 hollowed-out trees,made from fiberglass, hemp, and latex.

When a tree exploded on set, most of the debris fell on top of the actors,helping them deliver an authenticon-screen performance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Midway’ looks like it’s everything ‘Pearl Harbor’ was supposed to be

Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.

The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.


‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.

For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.

The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.

The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.

Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.

Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything you need to know about Star Trek from Comic-Con 2020

Star Trek continues to expand its universe, giving its 2020 Comic-Con@Home panel much to explore. Here are the spoiler-free highlights:


Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 | NYCC Teaser Trailer | CBS All Access

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1. Star Trek: Discovery returns Oct. 15

The cast of Discovery tuned in to perform a live read of the first act of Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 — the season 2 finale of the time-traveling, multiverse-exploring series. They then weighed in on where their characters left off at the end of season 2 and where they will begin in season 3, which will begin to air in October 2020.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – New Star Trek Series To Follow Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One

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2. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hints at the unknown

“We’re gonna get to work on a classic Star Trek show that deals with optimism and the future,” promised Strange New Worlds star Anson Mount, who will reprise his role as Captain Christopher Pike.

The Discovery spin-off leaves behind Pike, Ethan Peck’s Spock, and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One to share a new chapter in the Enterprise’s story.

With Pike having seen his future, Mount said that, “When you see how it’s all going to end, and it’s not so pretty, what do you do with that?” He continued, “How do you move forward? I think he’s probably going to wrestle with how he can best utilize the rest of his life for the good of the world, the universe.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks | Season 1 Official Trailer | CBS All Access

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3. Star Trek: Lower Decks premieres Aug. 6

Lower Decks is a new half-hour animated comedy series from Emmy Award winner Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). It will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships, the USS Cerritos. Taking place in 2380, the show’s timeline rests “in the TNG era” between Star Trek: Nemesis and before Star Trek: Picard.

SDCC 2020 | Star Trek: Picard Panel | ComicCon@Home

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4. Star Trek: Picard

Speaking of which, the cast of Picard reunited digitally to talk about Jean-Luc Picard’s crew aboard the La Sirena. Reflecting on the show’s (critically acclaimed) first season, Sir Patrick Stewart shared the challenges of bringing the iconic character back to life. “It was at first very challenging, because thanks to our brilliant team of writers we are living in a very different world, a very complex world, a profoundly troubled world, which might just be appropriate for the time we’re living in.”

As for what will come next for Picard and his companions, series creators are remaining tight-lipped.


Articles

‘Restrepo’-like documentary ‘The Hornet’s Nest’ is a standout film

Another bullet slammed into the rocky slope beside journalist Mike Boettcher. The Taliban sniper fired again, sending another large-caliber bullet whizzing between the Americans who were scattered among the boulders. Boettcher kept his camera rolling but worried his son Carlos might have been hit. The father-and-son team was embedded with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, but getting good footage was now the last thing on his mind. 

Eventually the paratroopers forced the sniper to displace, and Mike and Carlos Boettcher were reunited, both unscathed. 

“I told you don’t leave my side! This is a damn war zone, Carlos,” Mike can be heard screaming off-camera. 

When it comes to documentaries about the war in Afghanistan, Restrepo still reigns supreme. But while the award-winning documentary from Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington is the most acclaimed film of its kind, The Hornet’s Nest is a must-watch for anyone seeking a closer look into America’s longest war.

Mike Boettcher describes the documentary as a “real-life narrative feature.” The feeling that his film is more than a documentary comes from the added drama of Mike and Carlos’ strained relationship. Their final attempt to bond amid the war that surrounds them provides an additional storyline that unfolds like a scripted feature film.

Between 2010 and 2011, the duo embedded with three Army brigades and one Marine battalion on their deployments to Afghanistan. While the filmmakers survived their extended stay in Afghanistan, 44 members of the units they embedded with did not. The combat footage they recorded is as intense as any existing documentary, but the audio surpasses them all. The sounds of bullets snapping and whizzing overhead are so clear it’s hard to believe they weren’t created in a studio and added during editing.

While the combat footage is jarring and the Boettchers’ relationship is compelling, it’s the documentary’s ending that transforms The Hornet’s Nest from an average film to a must-watch. The Boettchers were present at the Battle of Barawala Kalay Valley: a two-day mission that devolved into nine days of heavy fighting. Before the Americans prevailed, six US soldiers were killed in action.

The entire battle unfolds in the film’s final act, concluding with an emotionally devastating battlefield memorial service. The final scene provides a rare glimpse into one of the most sacred military traditions. As the final roll call is read and the surviving soldiers fight to keep their bearings, it becomes difficult to watch. The heart-wrenching conclusion serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the steep cost of the war in Afghanistan.  


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

This Green Beret is starring in the first-ever story mode for ‘Madden 18’

For the first time ever, EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise will feature a story mode in “Madden NFL 18.” Called “Longshot,” the story is about overcoming all odds, not just winning football games or scoring the big contract.


“Longshot” is the story of Devin Wade, a quarterback who played at the University of Texas but joined the Army in the middle of his college career. While in, one of Wade’s commanding officers encourages him not to give up on his dream of starting in the NFL.

The captain in “Longshot” is played by a real Green Beret, whose story is very similar to that of Devin Wade. Army veteran Nate Boyer was a Special Forces soldier who played at Texas after leaving the Army.
“It was  a big coincidence that the storylines were so similar, especially with him going to University of Texas,” Boyer told We Are The Mighty. “Some things are switched around. Devin Wade went to college first and then joined the army and now is going back to try and play football in the NFL. But still, it was kind of weird.”

Boyer is joined in the cast by “Moonlight” and “Luke Cage” actor Mahershala Ali, who plays Devin’s dad, Cutter, as well as real pro players J.R. Lemon and Dan Marino.

Even the title “Longshot” resonates in Nate Boyer’s life. ESPN featured Boyer and his story in a piece called “The Longshot.”

ESPN’s feature documented then-34-year-old Boyer trying to get on the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper after leaving the University of Texas.

“When I came out of the army I was 29 and I never played football in my entire life,” Boyer recalls. “I just wanted to try and make the University of Texas roster. That was like my first goal: Just make the team.”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
Boyer as a Green Beret in Iraq and later as a long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks.

Then Boyer wanted to get on the field. He did. Then he wanted to start. For three years, Boyer was the starting long snapper for the Longhorns. He even made Academic All Big-12 during his tenure.

Now Boyer will play Capt. McCarthy, U.S. Army. He’s part-mentor to Devin, part-life coach. Like Boyer, McCarthy pushes his troops to live without regrets – that they could do anything if they want it badly enough.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

“Captain McCarthy was kind of like the voice in my own head,” says Boyer. “The good voice. The angel, not the devil on the other shoulder, sort of pushing myself and encouraging myself and wanting me to believe in myself.”

The story mode in “Madden 18” is a simplified version of the game, according to Kotaku. The plays are called by the computer and there are no time outs. You can only control Devin and whichever receiver gets the ball. But you do get to play a pick-up game in a deployed location.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
(EA Sports)

To any aspiring “Devin Wades” out there who might be wearing the uniform of the United States right now, but who hope to wear an NFL uniform (or any uniform) in the future, Boyer recommends fearlessness and hard work.

“No matter what it is you’re interested in, if it’s something positive and it challenges you, just go for it,” he says. “Even if you’re a little afraid to pursue it, just put everything you have into it. Take the things you overcome and accomplish, the sacrifices you make, and apply that moving forward. The military is a stepping stone, not the pinnacle of your life. Find that next challenge.”
MIGHTY GAMING

This gaming charity sends troops the greatest care packages

There’s nothing in this world that makes a deployed troop happier than opening a care package from the folks back home. Some of momma’s cookies, hygiene stuff, and little sentimental things are always appreciated. But everyone gets hyped the moment the MWR gets some new video games.


One of the unspoken realities of deployment life is, between missions, there’s almost nothing to do. Boredom causes complacency — and complacency is cause for concern. This is where Operation Supply Drop comes in.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
When this is all you have between missions – video games are a life saver.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar)

Since 2010, Operation Supply Drop has impacted 471 deployed units, supporting over 361,271 troops. The care packages include some of the top video games that troops miss while overseas, consoles to play them on, peripherals to enjoy them, and some coffee to help work gaming into their schedule.

Glenn D. Banton, Sr. CEO & Executive Director of Operation Supply Drop, tells We Are The Mighty “Being able to provide a positive impact and morale boost to our troops at this scale is a huge driver for OSD. What really keeps us going is that many of these men and women then become active members in our community programs when redeploying back home. OSD provides relevant services to the military community during service, through transition, and into civilian life.”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
And as a leader, it’s always great to know exactly where your troops are… playing video games at the MWR.
(Photo by Maj. Erik Johnson)

While this is their most well-known program, it’s only about half of their mission statement. They’re also making great things happen in a program they call Respawn, through which they supply injured troops at military medical centers around the world with video games. There have been many studies conducted on the physical and mental health benefits of playing video games. Mentally-challenging and thought-provoking games have been instrumental in assisting those who sustain traumatic brain injuries.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
Video games are one of the most effective, and most positively received, rehabilitation tools at Fort Sam Houston.
(Photo by Mr. Steven Galvan)

Other amazing programs run through Operation Supply Drop include Heroic Forces, which provides one-on-one professional development support to troops leaving the service; Thank You Deployments, where the community nominates fellow veterans for VIP events, like attending the E3 Expo or meeting sports legends; and an awesome, recent addition in Games to Grunts, which gives free game codes to veterans. There’s no catch: Just sign in with a verified account from ID.me and you get some pretty sweet games.

Insurgency is a lot of fun, but the one I’ve personally been hooked on is Party Hard.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

When “Black Hawk Down” hit theatres in 2001, it was marketed as a cast of ‘no names’. The real “stars” were the elite troops depicted onscreen: the Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers and 160th SOAR pilots who made up Task Force Ranger in the fall of 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The movie chronicles their 18-hour battle with Somali militias in which 18 Americans died.


But in the 15 years since, Black Hawk Down’s cast has turned into a roster of certified Hollywood A-listers or perennial movie “That Guys.” In fact, BHD’s alumni have made more big movies than any other military ensemble cast.

BoxOfficeMojo.com is a website that tracks career box office earnings of hundreds of actors.  All told, the movies featuring Black Hawk Down alumni have been in have earned a staggering $12.6 billion – more than the combined career box office for the cast of Oceans 11.

The cast falls into three military groups:

The $B-BoysBlack Hawk Down actors who crossed the billion-dollar line (in the book, though less so in the movie, Delta Force is nicknamed “D-boys”)

The Regulars – you know their faces, if not their names

Asymmetric Warriors – Two roles – a Delta Force operator and a 24th Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman – were played by actors who now have massive careers, but not as traditional movie stars. We had to measure their careers differently (leave it to JSOC to be hard to pin down).

The $B-Boys

Orlando Bloom, “PFC Todd Blackburn”

 

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

 

Career Box Office:  $2,815,831,431

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: an elf or a pirate.

The wispy, slightly-sour-faced Brit spends just a few minutes on screen and hardly speaks. But after five installments of “Lord of the Rings” and three “Pirates of the Caribbean,” movies starring Bloom have made more money than those starring George Clooney or Brad Pitt (whom Bloom starred with in “Troy”).

Ewan McGregor, “PFC John Grimes”

 

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

 

Career Box Office: $2,080,785,955

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: a Jedi; lusting for life.

He was a brash talking, un-Tabbed underachiever consigned to coffee duty until pushed outside the wire, but McGregor’s John Grimes – “Grimesy” – was the closest thing to an Everyman in the movie. But by the time Black Hawk Down hit screens, McGregor had already played Obi Wan Kenobi in the “Phantom Menace,” with two other mega Star Wars prequels just ahead. Together, they pulled in $1.1 Billion.

William Fichtner, “SFC Jeff Sanderson”

 

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

 

Estimated Box Office*: $1,495,000,000

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: getting killed.

Fichtner, one of the all-time That Guys in movie history, might be America’s answer to Sean Bean, the oft-murdered Englishman. Fichtner dies a lot. He’s met his on-screen fate on George Clooney’s doomed fishing boat (“The Perfect Storm”) and as an outlaw in Johnnie Depp’s wild west (“The Lone Ranger”), and only barely survived Bruce Willis’ doomed space shuttle (“Armageddon”). In Black Hawk Down, Fichtner’s fiction Delta soldier Sanderson is a battlefield Svengali, coaxing a team of scared, out-gunned Rangers through the day’s fight. He grows ever cooler as the fire gets heavier, dispensing tactical hints that also serve as deep life wisdom (“stay off the walls”).

*Fichtner, like several Black Hawk Down actors, doesn’t register on BoxOfficeMojo. So we added up only the giant hits you’ve almost definitely forgotten he was in.

Tom Hardy, “Pvt. Lance Twombly”

 

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $1,242,535,310

Oh, it’s the guy from: “driving for his life in a desert hell hole. But with girls.”

For 12 years after the movie’s release, Hardy wasn’t even the most famous actor among his small trio of Rangers separated from the main force. One of the soldiers, Nelson, is temporarily deaf, a condition played for laughs by Ewan Bremner, a.k.a. Spud from “Trainspotting.” But in 2012, he played Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and stole the summer of 2015 in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Jason Isaacs, “Cpt. Michael Steele”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box office: $1,952,955,239

Oh, it’s the guy who is usually: a punchable, dickish authority figure. But in a wig.

Some guy you definitely don’t know has made two billion dollars – pretty funny, hooah? As one of many roles in a classic “That Guy” career, Isaacs plays Cpt. Steele, the uptight Ranger commander who spends most of the movie not getting along with Delta’s cool kids. His most famous moment is as the butt of Eric Bana’s classic joke, “this is my safety, sir.” Steele was right on type for Isaacs, who was also a total dick to Harry Potter as Lucius Malfoy and to 18th-century churchgoers in “The Patriot.”

Ioan Gruffudd, “Lt. John Beales”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

 

$1,429,115,324

Oh, I think he was in: A total disaster, probably (“San Andreas,” “Titanic”).

A career character actor, Gruffudd has played small-to-medium roles in almost 20 films that, combined, have brought in a little over $800 million. He also played a bit part in one of the biggest hits of all time, “Titanic.” The role was so small that BoxOfficeMojo doesn’t count it, but we’re giving it to him. Grufford plays 5th Officer Harold Lowe, who in both the movie and real life, was the only officer who went back to rescue survivors in the water. It’s Grufford who rescues Kate Winslet – and what is “Black Hawk Down” at heart if not a rescue mission? We’re counting it in Gruffudd’s total.

Eric Bana, “Sgt. 1st Class Norm ‘Hoot’ Gibson”

 

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $1,029,166,799

Oh, isn’t that the guy from: Tough one. You know you know Bana.

He’s definitely “a movie star.” But he’s never held top billing in a major hit. His fictionalized Delta operator Gibson – who bookends the movie with meditative soliloquies on combat and soldiering – might be Bana’s defining role. Still, Bana is a hell of a 2nd Chair, scoring 9-digit box office in “Troy,” “Star Trek,” and “Lone Survivor.” And as a sheer badass, he reached near-“Hoot” levels as an Israeli assassin in “Munich.”

The Regulars

Tom Sizemore, “Col. Danny McKnight”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office*: $780,000,000

Oh, it’s that guy from: same character type, different war.

Sizemore’s career has been a string of grizzled combat leaders, including Sgt. Horvath in Saving Private Ryan, another NCO in Pearl Harbor and shoot-first detective Sgt. Jack Scagnetti (great name!) in Natural Born Killers. In BHD, when gunfire breaks out, he memorably orders a nervous Ranger: “shoot back.”

*Like Fichtner, we looked at Sizemore’s biggest hits and rounded up.

Josh Hartnett, “Sgt. Matt Eversmann”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $678,425,308

Wait, was he in…: not much lately, tbh.

With all the future superstars and famous faces, it’s a little jarring to look back and realize that Hartnett was the guy featured on BHD’s original movie poster. Much of the movie tracks his trial by fire as a new Ranger team leader. But after BHD, Hartnett’s career stalled. He played the lead in Pearl Harbor, as bad a military movie as BHD is a good one, and hasn’t been in a big hit – or big poster – since.

Jeremy Piven, “CW3 Cliff ‘Elvis’ Walcott”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $575,659,624

Hey, it’s: Ari!

Jeremy Piven has played in about 60 films but he’ll never escape being Ari Gold, the preening talent agent in HBO’s “Entourage.” Unfortunately, Piven plays his role as 160th pilot Walcott in full proto-Gold style, with cocky, hot-shot dialogue that sound more like “Top Gun” than 160th operators. Piven isn’t on BoxOfficeMojo, but he did make six movies with John Cusak, so we modified Cusak’s career box office total for Piven.

Tom Guiry, “Staff Sgt. Ed Yurek”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $388,375*

Guiry is a chalk leader in BHD, where he’s unrecognizable from his only other well-known role, the kid-classic “The Sandlot.” I just hope that when he “fired” his weapon on set, his intended target always yelled, “You’re killing me, Smalls!”

(*the record price paid for a Babe Ruth autographed baseball)

Sam Shepard, “General William Garrison”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: unavailable

Look, I’ve covered Sam Shepard.

Asymmetric Warriors

Ty Burrell, “Tech. Sgt. Tim Wilkinson”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office*: $698,000,000

Oh, it’s the guy who: hasn’t been funny since Season 2.

In late 1998, about when BHD came out as a book, I was a trainee at the Pararescue Indoctrination course in San Antonio – a ‘cone’ as you’re called before graduating – when Wilkinson visited. Our class knew Wilkinson as one of two Air Force PJs that fast-roped into the heart of the fighting. He gave our class a great pep talk about sticking together and, even more impressively, jumped into our training for a day. That night, our class went out for a team dinner at an Outback. Wilkinson and two of our instructors were there. After eating, we tried to sneak out but the instructors caught us and put us through several sets of feet-up pushups in the parking lot as confused diners looked on. As we knocked them out, I remember seeing Wilkinson with his arms folded, laughing his ass off.

I tell this story here to distract you from noticing that one of the most decorated PJs in history is played by the dad from “Modern Family.”

*guess-timate of Modern Family’s total ad and syndication revenue

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “SFC Gary Gordon”

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Box Office: $560,000,000*

Oh, it’s: Cersei’s Bro With Benefits.

Waldau plays Gary Gordon, one of two Delta soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for volunteering to be dropped on a crash site to defend an injured crew. Both were killed in the firefight. And now he’s the Kingslayer. That’s about as badass as a “That Guy” gets.

(*we used the total revenue Game of Thrones effect on HBO in subscriptions, DVD sales and rights fees).

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.

But for veterans, it’s different.


I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.

Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.

The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.

Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”

People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.

I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.

It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.

Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.

For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.

Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.

There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.

Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe with nooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.

The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.

The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.

We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.

The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These are the most laughably bad recruitment ads for each branch

A lot of time and effort is put into every single advertisement that the U.S. military uses to leave a good, lasting impression on the minds of potential recruits. The best ads evoke emotion, tell the viewer what they stand to gain from service, and inform them that they’ll be a welcome addition to the team.

The following ads exhibit none of those qualities.

Remember, someone in the recruiting command for each branch decided that these videos were the best way to bring those numbers up. And don’t worry, we’re not leaving anybody out — every branch managed to push out a laughably bad commercial.


U.S. Air Force — “We’ve been waiting for you”

Hey, kid! You ever just sit and stare at an incoming tornado like an idiot when someone’s yelling at you to find shelter? Well, then you’re perfect astronaut material!

I’m not saying that every advertisement needs to be upbeat and cheery (you’ll see that those fill out the rest of this list), but this commercial is basically nightmare fuel set to a depressing piano score. Also, it’s cool and all to be fascinated by extreme weather, but if you’re the type of person that walks toward the huge freakin’ tornado in your backyard… you probably won’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force — let alone space command.

U.S. Army — “Sucked in”

It’s been beaten to death already — we all know how terrible of a campaign “An Army of One” was. That slogan completely dispels the notion that you’re becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and promotes Blue Falconry. This ad actually predates that monstrosity.

This ad is what you’d get if someone was sucked into the TV Poltergeist-style, but instead of being pulled into some ghostly dimension, they were instead transferred to the realm of sh*tty detail. Someone thought that layering on an upbeat song was all it’d take to make us how objectively creepy it is — they were wrong.

U.S. Navy — “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”

When you release a commercial, you typically want to make it abundantly clear what you’re actually pushing. In this video, a bunch of sailors get their port of call in the Caribbean and enjoy themselves, doing all the fun shore-leave stuff that any ol’ tourist would do — which is a far cry from actual service.

It also doesn’t help that this ad was mocked viciously on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, where they showed sailors on a working party to the tagline of, “It’s not just a job, it’s .78 a week!”

U.S. Marine Corps — “Chess”

Oh man, speaking of misleading advertising… At least the Navy’s laughably bad ad featured some sailors. It takes a full 54 seconds of watching this commercial before you realize that it’s trying to sell you on the Marine Corps.

It’s like someone who didn’t even understand the rules of chess decided that it deserved a dark, gritty reboot. First of all, that’s not how the knight piece moves at all. It starts out fine when he moves across the board to take out the lightsaber wielding bishop but, after that, he just does what he pleases.

To be fair, that’s how most Marines would react given a chess board…

U.S. Coast Guard — “Be part of the action”

Did you know that the Coast Guard actually runs commercials every now and then? And I’ll be honest, this commercial is actually the best of the worst on this list. It takes a fair and balanced understanding of what the Coast Guard does and gives it a Miami Vice tone.

The reason that this one stands out as being the worst of the Coast Guard ads is that it finishes with the dumbest criminals in history being stopped by the dorkiest dudes to ever sign up. On the bright side, having Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. put on a Coastie Cap at the end earns them at least a couple cool points.

Articles

This epic British glider attack is getting the movie treatment it deserves

Operation Deadstick was the first engagement of D-Day but many people don’t know the awesome story of how a small group of British glider soldiers captured two bridges intact and held them against German counterattacks. Now, the epic fight is becoming a movie.


The idea was that holding these two vital bridges over the Caen Canal and a nearby river would give the Allies a route inland and would prevent a German counterattack on the Normandy beaches.

So, on Jun. 6, 1944, the men of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry crash-landed in gliders at only 16 minutes past midnight. A brilliant performance by pilots put the closest group of paratroopers only 47 yards from the first objective while avoiding anti-glider poles that were still being emplaced around the bridges.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
When we say the gliders crash-landed, we mean it. Photos: British Army Sgt. Johnson

The British commander had a fright when thought he had gone blind, but he realized the crash had dislodged his helmet and slid it over his eyes. He put it on right and led his men up the nearby embankment and onto the first bridge.

There, Lt. Den Brotheridge led First platoon across the Caen Canal Bridge, firing from the hip. Brotheridge gunned down a German soldier on the bridges who fired a flare, achieving the first ground kill of D-Day. Tragically, he himself was shot just moments later and became the first Allied casualty of the day.

Still, the company was able to complete the assault only 10 minutes after landing, grabbing both bridges before the Germans could detonate the explosives on them. Sappers immediately got to work cutting wires and fuses to make sure a German counterattack would not be able to easily destroy them.

It turns out, the reason the bridges weren’t destroyed was two-fold.

First, the German commander had ordered the bridge wired to explode, but that the actual charges be stored nearby so that French partisans or an accident could not destroy the bridges unnecessarily. He had reasoned that the explosives could be placed and destroyed faster than a paratrooper assault could capture the bridges. He was wrong.

Second, only he could order the charges put into place and the bridges destroyed and he was busy visiting his girlfriend in the nearby village. He was drinking wine and eating cheese with her when he heard all the gunfire coming from the direction of the bridges.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
Glider troops pose with a French girl on a captured German motorcycle in Jun. 1944. Apparently, both sides thought anytime was a good time to hit on French women.

He decided to investigate the noises but apparently thought an attack was unlikely because he packed a picnic basket and tried to bring his girlfriend. He ended up dropping her off when she begged and cried, but he continued to the bridge with little caution.

His driver approached the bridge so fast that the two Germans actually blew past the British lines and were on the bridge before they realized that the German defenders had been killed. The British quickly captured both Germans and the picnic basket while the commander started crying about having let down his fuhrer.

The British then got ready for the inevitable counterattacks. The first came quickly as a German tank made its way to a nearby intersection in an attempt on the bridges. One of the glider troops engaged it with a Piat anti-tank grenade launcher, killing it with a single hit.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
Soldiers fire a Piat in Tunisia in 1943. Photo: British Army Sgt. Loughlin

Luckily for the British, larger counterattacks wouldn’t come for some time. While Lt. Col. Hans von Luck, the Panzer commander who would lead the counter assault, had his entire formation ready to go by 3 a.m., he wasn’t allowed to move forward without Hitler’s say-so. And Hitler slept in on D-Day.

Von Luck sent his grenadiers, one of the few units he could move forward without authorization, to the bridges but the British had been reinforced with paratroopers by that point. The British were able to stop the grenadiers’ advance and the Germans dug in, sure that armored support would be coming soon.

Forward German units did come to assist and were able to begin pushing the British back. The British were picked at by snipers and German rocket fire and were slowly surrounded, but they managed to hold out until the afternoon despite dwindling ammo and a limited number of men.

In the early afternoon, reinforcements in the form of British commandos finally came and the combined force held off German armored attacks, killing 13 of 17 tanks and plenty of German soldiers. They also had to fight off a German gunboat that attacked from the river.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
British forces move across the Caen Canal Bridge, later renamed Pegasus Bridge. Photo: British Army Sgt. Christie

The successful capture and defense of the bridges is a major part of British airborne history. Both bridges were renamed in honor of the British. The Caen Canal Bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge after the symbol of the British airborne soldiers. The nearby river bridge was renamed Horsa Bridge after the Horsa gliders the first troops rode in on.

Now, Eagles Dare Films is creating a movie that covers the efforts of the British soldiers from the assault through their eventual relief on the battlefield. Their Facebook feed is full of behind the scenes photos and a few images from their recent test shoot with re-enactors in full kit. The movie is slated for release in 2017.

(h/t to Stephen Ambrose of “Band of Brothers” fame for his book on Operation Deadstick, “Pegasus Bridge.” Check it out for much more information on the battle.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ official trailer is finally here

“My name is Sarah Connor. August 29, 1997 was supposed to be judgment day. But I changed the future. Saved three billion lives. Enough of a resume for you?”

“No.”

Terminator: Dark Fate will follow the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and disregard all other Terminator works and reboots (Rise of the Machines, Salvation, Genisys, Sarah Connor Chronicles etc.).

Make no mistake, the disregarded projects were profitable, but none had the same critical laurels as Judgment Day, which was not only the highest grossing film of 1991, but earned multiple Academy Awards.

Plus, it was a great film. Will Dark Fate live up to its standards?

Based on the trailer…maybe!


Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Trailer (2019) – Paramount Pictures

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Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Trailer (2019) – Paramount Pictures

Let’s look at the team making this film. We’ve got Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning in their iconic roles (you got a lot of explaining to do, T-800) — and totally hamming it up, as they should:

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Arnold’s cool and strong and whatever, but Linda Hamilton is a BAMF and you know it.

Also read: How fans are reacting to ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ footage

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

Another thing going for Dark Fate is that it’s directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller, who has proven that he knows how to entertain. Deadpool’s outlandish personality makes his films unlike any other superhero movie out there, which is true to the character created in the comics, but is still a challenge to pull off.

Miller nailed it with both films. Finger’s are crossed that he brought that ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to the Terminator franchise as well.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage

The consensus on the twitterverse seems to be “cautious optimism” — we’ve been hurt before, but this trailer looks like the film could be pretty cool. At a minimum, pouring through the tweets about it definitely doesn’t suck:

ATTN: The Terminator is wearing flannel #TerminatorDarkFate #Terminatorpic.twitter.com/NADClmiAU0

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Me after watching the trailer #TerminatorDarkFatepic.twitter.com/8SXOG5xRzN

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She’s back. Linda Hamilton takes you inside #TerminatorDarkFate and the role that helped define a franchise. Share what Terminator means to you in honor of #JudgmentDay below.pic.twitter.com/TkLIT2HFKr

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Also, Linda Hamilton has some thoughts:

Meanwhile, I’m just going to sit and ponder what the poster tagline means until the film is finally released on Nov. 1.

‘A Call to Spy’ film tackles WW2 espionage
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