Wars have inspired superb movies about veterans readjusting to society, among them the WWII drama The Best Years of Our Lives and the Vietnam tragedy The Deer Hunter, which won a combined 12 Oscars (including Best Picture for both). Judging from the silver-screen quagmire Home of the Brave, though, the current Iraq War will have to wait for its own epic.
Producer-turned-director Irwin Winkler insists on championing weak, literal-minded scripts and turning them into bathetic displays of human emotion (De-Lovely, Life as a House), or somnambulant suspense dramas (The Net, Guilty by Suspicion). Here he strikes again, with a painfully overwrought quartet of soldiers—including a drunk (Jackson) and an amputee (Biel)—trying to reintegrate into their mundane Oregon lives. Each encounters the others in a series of awkwardly written vignettes (“You watch the History Channel? I love the History Channel!”), all of which coalesce into a cluster of miniclimaxes either too bland or too preposterous to take seriously.
The domestic trauma is peppered with chaotic flashbacks to red-zone conflict, which is hardly explained well, let alone earned dramatically, and by default becomes the worst sort of cinematic shorthand for the shell-shocked warrior. Earnest but lazy, fitfully laughable and insulting, Home of the Brave is cowardly work. (Opens Fri 15; AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13.) — Stephen Garrett