I received one email excoriating me for being too harsh on Chris McQuarrie’s Valkyrie. Unfortunately for the McQuarrie Defense League, it was from someone who hadn’t read the script.
Look, no one’s more disappointed than me that McQuarrie’s output since The Usual Suspects has consisted of one measly movie. Though it’s not unprecedented for a writer to sock one into the bleachers their first time out and then turn into a slumming Hollywood hack (look at David S. Ward’s filmography; guy went from winning an Oscar for The Sting to writing The Sting II ten years later), McQuarrie’s The Way of the Gun was hardly an embarrassment. As much as I loathe Valkyrie, I think he’s got some good writing left in him.
Apparently, McQuarrie’s a World War I buff, so his being hired to write an epic about The Great War is good news. The title, however, could use some work. No Man’s Land? Um, do you mean the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, the Charlie Sheen car theft policier or the thirteen other movies to use that title? Given the formulaic nature of Valkyrie, the rote moniker is a little distressing, but I am fully prepared to give McQuarrie the benefit of the doubt because I’d hate to see him become the Rick Ankiel on Hollywood. The film, to be produced by Nigel Sinclair and Guy East of Spitfire Pictures and the 2929 boys (Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner), will tell the tripartite tale of an American ambulance driving serving the French Foreign Legion, a German grunt slogging it out in the trenches and a British soldier charged with Paths of Glory. Again, not terribly original.
I also resent the tenor of the Variety article. Though All Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli and Paths of Glory are absolute classics, they don’t have a monopoly on the World War I movie front. Off the top of my head, The African Queen, The Lost Patrol and, in its way, Jules and Jim are all fine WWI films. But the conflict is definitely exploitable, and I’d like to think McQuarrie’s script will deliver what Valkyrie could not. Then again, further to that arrogance issue, does this quote from McQuarrie trouble anyone?
"The First World War has been adequately depicted, but I’ve never seen it adequately explained."