Friday, July 13, 2007

Ultimate Force vs. The Unit - Parte Tertia

Afterthoughts to this and this.

Some more indicators on the completely different 'takes' on the topic of elite 'soldiers', and who they are and why they do what they do and how:

Consider for one the names of the two series: The Unit vs. Ultimate Force. What someone is, as opposed to what he does or represents. Also, the word 'unit' itself carries implications of who these people are; how they relate to each other. In The Unit this relationship is stronger than that these people have to the nation-state these people serve. They know that sooner or later there is a definite possibility that they will be right royally screwed by very people whom they serve, or who are at least above them in the chain of command. Hence they take care of their own first—their comrades and their families—even if that involves criminal-appearing activities; which ultimately are getting them into strife with the bad guys from the CIA, who would rather that they were the only ones doing illegal things.

In Ultimate Force, even in the initial series, 'family' always figured mainly as a device to show how screwed up people can get when they do the kind of stuff these guys do, and how that mucks up their families and their lives, and just how horrible it is that we have to have soldiers who kill at all and all that. In later series that aspect was toned down, and anybody in a 'relationship' with anybody was either killed off or else simply disappeared into life outside the 'Regiment'. In The Unit, by contrast, the families aren't just 'there', but form an integral part of the stories. The families actually are a part of The Unit, and the series name includes them implicitly. We are constantly reminded what—apart from playing soldiers and, as is pointed out repeatedly by various characters, "jumping from airplanes"—these men are actually doing what they're doing for, and maybe also why.

The strange lack of motivation and—dare I call it that?—'depth' in the Ultimate Force crew is further revealed by a subplot in Episode 0402, where one of the team takes on a small 'protection' job for a cash payment; a job that ultimately leads him into trouble, though he manages to get himself out of it.

I suppose the point, if there was one, was to show how resourceful the guy could be. What it really revealed though was either negligence and a lack of direction in the show's writing, or else the whole thing was more than a filler and meant to show...well, what? Some element of human fallibility and weakness in the person concerned? Trying to take the super-soldiers down a notch, maybe, as one might expect from a British show requiring some PC-conformance; while David Mamet could basically go out and put his own stamp and vision onto it, together with his co-producer Eric Haney, who used to be a Delta Force operative. After all, it was Mamet who wrote, in the introduction to Inside Delta Force:

"The great military novels have about them an ineffable air of sadness. [They] seem, both in scenes of combat and in the scenes of rest, depictions of a life heightened to the plateau of regret, longing, and loss. The great military memoirs, similarly, are a record of loss and its transmutation into compassion. [...] in Eric Haney's Inside Delta Force, we are welcomed into the curious, moving and persuasive philosophy of the soldier trying to find wisdom in defeat and humility in victory."

That pretty much sets the tone for The Unit. Nothing comparable is on offer for Ultimate Force. More's the pity, for it could be so much more than it is. Point is also, in the episode I mentioned, that a Unit member would never have taken that job-on-the-side; not in a month of Sundays; not unless it was part of whatever had to be done to do the job they came there for. Definitely not to earn an extra buck on the side.

Finally, as for sheer lethality, here's a nice one. In Episode 0402 again, which is set in a Central American country where the troop goes to ostensibly act as advisers and trainers, Henno tells his men that they should wear their sidearms at all times. What a hoot! You've got to tell these fellows to go around armed? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Wouldn't catch the Unit guys naked! The Unit Episode 0113, The Wall, ends in a blood bath. Some bad guys try to invade a Unit celebration at the end and kill everybody there. Revenge stuff by some Balkanese homi- and geno-cidal maniac, whose ass even the French were unable to save—though not for lack of trying, and did I mention that the French aren't Mamet's favorite people?—and whose family ended up in the crossfire. All the fault of the French and the UN of course, but it looked like it had been Jonas and his mates. So, Genocido and his buddies track them down and now want some serious payback. The celebration-invaders are armed with nice HK submachine guns—German quality products; favored around Europe for the use of unfriendly people—and start shooting up the place of celebration.

But, oops, bad luck, chaps. Jonas and the boys, including their Colonel, don't even go to happy-go-lucky celebrations without the appropriate toys tucked away discreetly under their dinner jackets. And these boys know how to shoot. Several thousand rounds every week on the range, just to keep in practice. And so...

...the good guys are left standing.

Yudan Nashi.

A 'warrior' worthy of the appellation shouldn't have to be told to be on guard. Shit always happens when it's furthest from your mind. That's like a law of nature.

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