Neglected Virtues: Southern Comfort (1981)
Publication date: 16.02.2018
Director Walter Hill is today known principally for his action movies, his biggest popular hit being the riveting 48 Hrs. and has consistently drawn comparison to Sam Peckinpah, almost as if Hill were in a line of descent from the legendary figure. However, before the enormous popular success of 48 Hrs. cemented his mainstream career, he made a number of stylishly provocative movies that either dealt with enigmatic loners (Hard Times, The Driver) or with unusual groups faced with gradual dissolution (The Warriors, The Long Riders). His taut film of Southern Comfort fits startlingly well into the latter category and emerges as an example of the director at his finest, being both a rugged action movie and a sobering allegory about American military involvement in Vietnam. Although the Vietnam War was long over by the time the film was made, only recently had American cinema begun to tackle these events directly: indeed, through the 1970s, other genres were substituted for themes relevant to Vietnam. Westerns especially were solid ground, as were action-exploitation films and even war movies about other skirmishes had undeniable references to the most traumatic war in American 20th Century history. Southern Comfort perhaps represents the pinnacle of such war allegories, an unmatched treatise on military arrogance and group collapse under the pressure of an under-estimated adversary.
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