I Want To Be A Soldier (2010)

 

I Want To Be A Soldier (2010)“My name is Alex. I may look like a little boy, but I am a grown up.”

The opening scene of the 2010 film I Want To Be A Soldier leads the viewer to believe that the film will be about a rebellious youngster who won’t tolerate authority and won’t give in to threats.  That’s Alex and he is only eight years old.  But then we see other scenes from earlier in his life which portray an ideal upbringing of a young boy – recorded via the family camcorder.   But is it the same boy?  And if it is, what may have caused the transformation that resulted in his complete change of behavior? Is this change a normal  part of growing up, or is it something else?

Like all kids, Alex dreams of his future.  He wishes to become an astronaut (don’t all boys at one point or another?) – and as he gets his good night kiss from his mother his only worry is how he will be able to do that if they both wear helmets during a space trip to the moon.  One needs a lot of support to prepare to be an astronaut. But Alex is not alone.  You see, he has a friend.  True, it’s an imaginary friend, yet very real to Alex – a real astronaut who offers tutelary guidance to the boy as his mentor and,  yes, as a role model too.

I Want to be a Soldier 2010  - An Imaginary friend

Things start to change when Alex’s mother gives birth to two babies. At first, Alex is happy with his new big brother role, but as the attention of his parents shifts almost exclusively in favor of the younger members of the family, Alex starts to feel abandoned.  He demands a TV set in his room and his parents, who have always been reluctant to provide him with his own TV,  finally give in and grant his wish.  What happens next will not really surprise anyone.

I Want to be a Soldier 2010 - In front of the TV

The young Spanish director, Christian Molina, successfully transformed a somewhat less than original plot into a realistic tale about the influence that modern media may have on adolescents when adults abdicate from their responsibility. Alex’s imagination is captured by violent scenes, distant wars, murders and executions – all in abundance and easily accessible via the electronic box in his room. As a result, Alex changes both his attitude and his passions.  He  no longer wants to become an astronaut but, rather, a brave soldier who will destroy the enemies of his nation and make everyone pay. His imaginary astronaut friend is now replaced by a new figure – John Cluster – a cruel Sergeant equipped with advice and tips on how to become a better soldier.  After all, that’s one of the the roles imaginary friends have, right?  They help kids make sense of the adult world around them.

Though the plot of I Want To Be A Soldier doesn’t exactly shine with originality, it does feature several carefully placed story turning points that manage to keep the viewer engaged.  The young Fergus Riordan (for whom the role of Alex is his first lead role in a feature film) delivers an outstanding performance.  Because of it, the  tension that builds within Alex on the screen is truthfully reflected to the viewer. One even feels a bit of understanding and admittance to the rousing thrills of juvenile delinquency. In contrast, however, the performances of most of the adult actors felt stilted and unnatural. Despite these shortcomings, the film manages to evoke strong emotions in the viewer while, at the same time, inspire thoughts of the circumstances and events that shape the mentality of a child.  The violent scenes shown in the film merely reflect what children are exposed to nowadays.  Yet they create a feeling of uneasiness and distress even in the adult viewer.

While I know the issue of how children are affected by violence in the media today is not a new one….I found this film very disturbing and it got me thinking about the violence children are exposed to via various media and games they play these days. Whether or not violence in the various media and in video games that children play negatively affects them, Director Molina has stated in an interview that he “wanted to educate the viewer to draw his own conclusions”.

Viewing this film made me do exactly that — form my own opinion.  I encourage everyone to view I Want To Be A Soldier and form your own opinion of this very topical subject.

I Want to be a Soldier

4 COMMENTS

  1. Viewed this film tonight.

    It was a somewhat interesting look into a theory of child mentality in todays society with excess media coverage of violence and death being so prominent. I must emphasis on the fact that this is a ‘theory’ though, and the filmmakers belief or support of this theory was evidentally too strong throughout the film. I felt it to be quite preachy at times especially with certain decisions on production design and dialogue (i.e. the SS and luftwaffe posters in Alex’s room). I thought that was way too in-your-face and was reiterating something we already know and can establish about Alex without these. I highly, highly doubt that an American middle class, suburban family would allow these flags and posters to be displayed. I understand the director wanted to play on the aspect of neglect, but I felt this was not shown in an amount of severity that justified these decisions.

    The dialogue seemed quite forced and unnatural in a number of scenes as well, and I also felt the swearing was completly overused. I have no problem what so ever with swearing in film, as long as it is justified and has meaning. MANY times in this film, it was not, and repeated over and over again.

    I thought the performance from young Fergus Riordan was quite good and an impressive debut to feature length films, however I felt the ensemble was let down from the performances of the parents. Some of the teachers from the school were god awful as well.

    Look, I get what they were trying to communicate through this film and I repect the fact that they are addressing an issue which is very important in todays society, I just feel they went about it in the wrong manner. And when you have a Spanish director working with British actors, trying to make a film about American culture and media, there will obviously be some problems, and not just with the British accents.

    • You know when I attended high school in the US – the school banned a popular shooting game – because of the violence it it. Theories often are applied in the real life – even if some remain to be proved . You are the second person after James to express his concern about the foul language in the film…I wonder why it did not make an impression on me ( Unlike the one used in the movie
      Hesher (2010) I saw recently – which was really ” in your face ” )…

      Thank you for your great comment

    • Totally agree. theories are most definetly applied in real life, but that doesn’t remove the fact that they are still theories. I think the fact that he was a such a good kid before the television was put into his room, was one of my big problems with it. It has NOT been proven that media on TV literally turns children into psycopaths. If they had of played the point that this kid is already troubled (and showing tendencies of agression etc) and the violence he sees on the TV propells these violent inclinations, then I think it may have been a more plausible arguement.

      I really think it’s an important issue to address however, and I think media, social enviroments (both online and in reality) and an increase of gaming avaliabilities most certainly is affecting children in todays society. We constantly hear people talking about children of this age and their obession with digital devices and their lack of external interactions with the world.  etc. But I think what this film was displaying was a centralised message (which is somewhat inaccurate) and did not look at the bigger picture.

      My concern for the swearing was NOT that it was coming from kids… at all. Kids swear all the time. My concern was that it was COMPLETELY overused in many lines of dialgoue. I think in one scene the word ‘fuck’ was used about 8 times in a very small conversation. ‘fuck’ was literally every second word. That is simply poorly written dialogue.

      I will be defientely watching Hesher either today or tomorrow. I’ll post in that thread when I do. :)

      – PhoenixEast

  2. I found this film very disturbing, not just for the graphic violence portrayed, but the language a child was allowed to use in front of a camera in the name of Art. Absolute filth! This director’s work should be banned in this country. There is no place for that sort of filth and this should be rated 18.

Leave a Reply