Women have made their stance in movies over the years. For years women seemed to be portrayed as the soft character with a big heart and when a film comes around that explores what a woman can do, I look to see what is possible. When I think of a strong female lead the characters that come to mind are Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner. They are both women who displayed strong motivation for the things that they did. And I often find myself wondering, “Why aren’t there more badass women on the screen?”
With the release of Wonder Woman this summer, audiences and critics were surprised at how Gal Gadot portrayed her character. She’s tough and displays good leadership qualities. It was awesome to see a female superhero after nearly ten years with Catwoman and Elektra proving to be unsuccessful. With Gal Gadot’s great performance I decided to look back at another film that explores the strength of a woman and that film is G.I. Jane. Director Ridley Scott brings us a gritty training program that involves a woman (Demi Moore) training in the Navy Seals. The training is not easy and Scott shows us just how difficult it is.
It all begins when Senator DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) strikes a behind-the-curtains deal to send a woman to train for the U.S. Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team, a fictional program that is similar to the real-life Navy Seal BUD/S. Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil (Moore) is assigned to complete this training exercise in a test that, if she completes, could open the doors for women to serve in all occupations of the Navy. After looking through all the test cases, Senator DeHaven choose O’Neil because she’s physically more feminine than the other candidates.
One thing that I really enjoyed about the film is the script by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra. O’Neil doesn’t want to be used as a pawn for political purposes since she wanted to serve earlier and was turned downed. She agrees to train with the men alongside her and wants to be treated the same and not be singled out. O’Neil is tough and getting through “Hell Week” is just that, hell itself. Viggo Mortensen is the Command Master Chief Urgayle who runs the brutal program, which sixty percent drop out in just under four weeks. Ridley Scott does a fantastic job filming these training exercises which involve pushing giant ship fenders on the beach, running through obstacles courses and hauling land crafts. It’s twenty-hour days and everyone looks beat and exhausted and people do quit, but O’Neil won’t.
When O’Neil first enters the program a lot of people don’t think she will make it and it’s understandable. She’s a woman, she’s physically weaker than her male counterparts, but why should that matter? It’s only when she proves herself that the men come to respect her. She won’t quit no matter what she goes through. There’s a pivotal moment when the men are sent on a training mission which results in them being captured, but that’s the point. This training phase tests the endurance of the team to see if anyone will give information in the event that they are captured. One guy is beaten and his injured knee is an easy place to hurt him but he won’t budge. O’Neil is chosen next with the idea that the men would feel different if a woman were hurt — and she does get hurt. She’s slapped, thrown through a door and nearly drowned but she won’t give in. She retaliates and fights back even though her hands are bound behind her and even says a very quotable line to her Master Chief.
One of the sad parts of the film is the political side. People take pictures of O’Neil at the training facility and some things are said that very well could destroy her reputation. O’Neil is angry and realizes that everything is against her but she fights against everything and stands up for herself. It’s a great moment. Ridley Scott has really made a fantastic film and shows us that O’Neil doesn’t want to be treated any differently. She expects the harsh treatment that the rest of the men go through; and that is something that shows her character and her strength. It great to see a film about a strong female lead who is attractive but isn’t displayed in a sexual way. Yes, she’s a woman in an unusual environment, but a woman who can do anything that she puts her mind to.
With Gal Gadot (Diana Prince), Sarah Conner and Ellen Ripley; I think it’s safe to say that Jordan O’Neil (G.I. Jane) can be added to the list of memorable female characters who are so different from the usual roles for women. I get tired of seeing the “damsel in distress” in movies and enjoy seeing a woman who can kick some serious butt. It doesn’t have to be a woman who is physically strong, but her character should show us how tough she really is. For me, one of the most iconic strong women is Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She didn’t display any physical strength but she’s a powerful force in the film.
I found myself to be scratching my head wondering why Demi Moore won the Razzie for Worst Actress in this film. I thought her performance was very well done. If anything, I think her performance makes this film more memorable. One thing to remember is that all the actors did go through the brutal training themselves, except for Viggo Mortensen. He trained alone a lot earlier than his fellow actors. He spent a considerable amount of time observing actual training sessions and talked to several active and retired Navy Seals. Most of the supporting cast were angry with him that he didn’t go through the grueling training, with the exception of Moore, but in the end, that’s exactly what Mortensen wanted so that the actors who have a reason for not liking his character.
G.I. Jane is still a thrill ride after 20 years and sadly it’s taken 19 years for women to be accepted to train to be actual Navy Seals. Since March of 2016, women have been able to train to do what O’Neil did and that is something that I commend. As a film, some parts may be hard to watch, especially the training. Demi Moore delivered a great performance and I found her to be quite believable and memorable too. Don’t let G.I. Jane be forgotten, it’s a film that shouldn’t be overlooked.