Josef von Sternberg once said that he wished his movies would be projected upside down, so that viewers could appreciate their beauty without regard for their often sketchy stories. Sternberg was selling himself short, but Ridley Scott, the director of G.I. Jane, is almost utterly dependent on having a strong story to create a watchable film -- and with G.I. Jane he has one. (The screenplay's by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra, from a story by Alexandra.) The film pops along like the well-made commercial for a sexually integrated service it is, every frame frameable, Scott employing a subdued palette of pastels and military drab to paint, with light, a symphony in sea water, murk, and smoke.
Demi Moore, all curves and sinew, plays the perfect soldier-as-political-guinea-pig in a post-feminist fable that only occasionally drifts into annoying, point-making rhetoric. Built like a Russian gymnast and resembling a linebacker in autumn mud, Moore is well-paired with the whippetlike Viggo Mortensen as her bullying drill instructor. The military is presented as a brutalizing institution that's still ultimately superior to the traitorous compromises of civilian/bureaucratic/political life. As such the film's in line with Scott's Alien and Blade Runner (where corporations stake out civilians as sacrificial lambs) and also kin to Scott's last film, the boys-on-a-boat White Squall, where the lads must stick together, after tragedy, in the face of outside review. G.I. Jane flatters modern audiences in being at once as militaristic as Air Force One and as feminist as Murphy Brown ... or Scott's own Thelma & Louise. Unlike those luckless ladies, however, Moore's character is presented as so perfect she doesn't need to learn anything; she just must endure until the rest of the world acknowledges her perfection.
G.I. Jane opens Friday, Aug. 22, at area theaters.
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