1997, R, 124 min. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft, Jason Beghe, Daniel Von Bargen, Kevin Gage, David Vadim, Morris Chestnut, Josh Hopkins.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 22, 1997
Touted for months now as the template for the oft-asked question “Can Demi Moore carry a film on her own?”, G.I. Jane proves that, yes, despite Hollywood's -- and the American moviegoing public's -- love-hate relationship with Moore the Superstar, she has the chops down cold. No matter that Scott's film is little more than a run-of-the-mill crowd-pleaser with a finale that's telegraphed almost from scene one. And no matter, either, that the film carries a muddled message regarding women and power and women in power. The number-one question on the suits' minds (certainly in the wake of the Striptease and The Scarlet Letter disasters) has been: Can she hold her own? She does, and admirably well, to boot. So what you have here is a bravura performance from Moore anchored in a rather slipshod story and a mediocre job on Scott's part, at best. Moore plays Lt. Jordan O'Neil, a Navy Intelligence officer who is offered the chance to shatter the gender wall and become the first female member of the Navy's elite SEALs covert operations unit. O'Neil jumps at the chance, although her boyfriend Royce, himself a ranking naval officer, urges her to reconsider. The voice of reason, he quickly and accurately points out that not only are the SEALs notoriously macho and unwilling to cut her any slack other than the politically mandated “gender-norming” (which takes into accounts various unavoidable aspects of feminine physiology), but that there may also be some sort of shady political machinations favoring her ultimate failure. Such machinations come shrouded in the guise of Senator Lillian DeHaven (Bancroft), who at first recruits O'Neil and then does her damnedest to get the lieutenant shitcanned once the tides turn against her. Scott's depiction of the unbelievably arduous SEAL training is painstaking; if nothing else, G.I. Jane gives your muscles a sympathetic workout. As O'Neil slowly but surely wins the grudging respect of her male teammates, she finds herself in direct conflict with the SEALs' Master Chief Urgayle (Mortensen), a gritty, stoic, soldier-of-fortune type given to quoting D.H. Lawrence and downing tumblers of Jack Daniels. It doesn't help matters that a Chrissie Hynde ballad pops up on the soundtrack every time O'Neil finds herself weathering some sort of emotional storm, and Scott's Haight-Ashbury editing techniques during a climactic, third-act battle sequence are so out of place here that you wonder if he's just discovered the power of the zoom or if James Cameron slipped the cinematographer some angel dust. As a vehicle for Moore's acting abilities (and Mortensen's, for that matter), G.I. Jane is terrific. But as the end-of-summer blockbuster it's doubtless intended to be, it's pretty much a washout.