In Country (1989)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Family Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 15, 1989 (USA)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Viewers who rent In Country hoping for a war-action film packed with displays of masculinity erecting itself toward bittersweet but impassioned victory may be disappointed. Norman Jewison's 1989 film takes a subtler approach to its subject matter. Rather than depending on present-tense fighting sequences, the Vietnam War in In Country is made present in the damaged minds of its survivors (Bruce Willis) and in young people (Emily Lloyd) who seek an understanding. It is a film about remembrance and about the road people travel toward remembrance, which Jewison posits as one of the first steps toward much-needed resolution. Suitably, the film culminates in a trip to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. In Country's narrative is bold insofar as it refuses to relax into assumptions made by most war films. By what rights, it asks, and with what implications do we explore the past, glorify it, or make it present again? To this end Willis is smartly cast in a role counterintuitive for an action star: his Uncle Emmet is intended as a portrait of masculinity made impotent. Willis' performance is weakest when he relies on the charm and good looks that are his standard currency; likewise, In Country is weakest when it injects an undue action sequence -- Willis mounting a tree in a severe thunderstorm to bemoan the heavens -- into an otherwise subdued and gently hopeful film.