A Fighting Season
Clayne Crawford, Lew Temple
…a strong debut and a fascinating look at an under-represented facet of the military machine.
Cinematographer Oden Roberts makes his directorial debut with this low key but closely observed drama which puts the focus firmly on the business side of the military-industrial complex.
It is 2007 and America is ramping up its involvement in Iraq, necessitating more feet to fill the boots that will soon be on the ground. Our field of play here is an Army recruiting office, where two very different soldiers are tasked with convincing largely young, impoverished, and uneducated people to find out if they can be all they can be. Sergeant Harris (Lew Temple) is a veteran of the recruiting office, a cynic who knows how to work the recruiting system to maximise his results. Sergeant Mason (Clayne Crawford) has recently returned from combat deployment and has first hand knowledge at what these young people are getting sent into. Conflict is, of course, inevitable.
Has there ever been a film that looks at the coalface of marketing the military before? Our characters’ remit here is to sell the idea of a life in the Army to a never-ending parade of young hopefuls, and the techniques they use will be familiar to anyone who has put in time in a commission-based sales role – or, indeed, seen Glengarry Glen Ross. Of course, the motivating force being applied isn’t the carrot of a fat bonus, but the stick of overseas deployment – something Mason relishes, but Harris, a rear echelon lifer, is mortified by. Thus, to save his comfortable position (and his own skin) Harris uses every trick in the book to hit his recruiting targets, while Mason, himself suffering PTSD, becomes increasingly disgusted with the whole operation.
The film, made on an incredibly low budget, lives in the interplay between the two, and thanks to strong performances, it works a treat. A Fighting Season‘s area of inquiry is the morality of marketing the military, and the dubious snake oil tactics used to entice the vulnerable to sign up for a hitch. It’s a workplace drama, in effect, but never lets you forget the stakes are literally life and death. This is a strong debut and a fascinating look at an under-represented facet of the military machine.