G.i. Jane

on August 22, 1997 by Kim Williamson
Aka "In Pursuit of Honor," "G.I. Jane" bursts off the screen with a take-no-prisoners opening: At a Senate hearing, a Navy honcho is grilled by a tough Texas senator (Anne Bancroft); moments later, the scene has switched to deep-in-the-bowels naval intelligence headquarters, with officer Lt. Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) going out on a limb to suggest alternate strategy to get some Seals safely home. The work of director Ridley Scott and scripter David Twohy is by the numbers but forcefully presented. Would that the midsection of "G.I. Jane" be as forceful. It's certainly as by the numbers: O'Neil becomes the senator's pet project sa the first female candidate for the Navy's elite Seals. Scenes of her training--climb the ropes, crawl the ground--are just what audiences might expect, if higher than usual on the machismo level; so is the reaction of her male mates, as exemplified by her boot-camp commandant (Viggo Mortensen). Yet it's not till the narrative takes an odd byway--the unstoppable O'Neil suddenly folds when phony charges of fraternization with nonelisted women (i.e., lesbian activity) arise, and the senator's supposedly true nature is revealed--that "G.I. Jane" becomes just plain bad; both the senator's and O'Neil's decisions come out of nowhere, as later does a particularly tough character's affection for D.H. Lawrence. Fortunately, the narrative resuscitates when O'Neil goes on her first mission in a finale that would have been even more rousing had it been more believable (the body counts on the two warring sides is hardly balanced, with the "bad" guys--Arabs, of course--apparently unable to shoot straight even at close range). Still, what gives this Caravan/Scott Free/Moving Pictures production its power for contemporary audiences is its straight-from-the-headlines attentions to the question of women in the military, and on this Scott & co. are right on target. Starring Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen and Anne Bancroft. Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by David Twohy. Produced by Ridley Scott, Roger Birnbaum, Demi Moore and Suzanne Todd. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated R for language and combat violence. Running time: 125 min
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