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Military 101: Why Often Famous Military Themed Movies Get Military Tactics Wrong?

F-14 Fighter Jet Military Tactic Air Force

When it comes to military assets and tactics-themed movies, you will hardly remember movies like Top Gun as there is nothing much of tactics there except for Tom Cruise and the beautiful shots of F-14 Tomcats facing the Russian MiGs (which are actually Northrop F-5Es in camouflage). Image source: Wikipedia.

I recently watched the much-awaited movie, Top Gun: Maverick starring Tom Cruise and other than great shots of the fighter jets (mostly seems CGIs) and despite it suppose to be a better movie than the original Top Gun, there was a massive lack of logic in the overall storyline.

The worst scene would probably be when Maverick and Rooster got shot down and they race back to the enemy base (which seems Russian), just to find a fully fuelled up, ready-to-fly F-14 Tomcat fighter jet. Why the Russians would have an obsolete fighter jet when they have the newer stealth, thrust vector-controlled Sukhoi Su-57s? Doesn’t reminds us of the fully loaded Sukhoi Su-30 at a terrorist base in the Tamil movie, Beast?

Read these first:-

Actual ex-Military Reaction

You know that I hate reaction videos primarily because those who react to the videos hardly add anything to the reaction. But there are exceptions when you have someone who is an expert in the field to do the reaction and then add their informative commentary to the particular scene of the video being reacted to.

I have watched reaction videos by commercial pilots, air-force pilots, army snipers, SFX specialists and in most cases, ex-special force team members. Most of the time, you can see their annoying faces when they see a scene in a movie and go like “no, that is not how it happens in real life”.

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One of the great Youtube reaction channels that I watch is from FNG Academy where we have former Green Beret, Sean “Buck” Rogers do reaction videos with his team and pinpoint the tactical and operational mistakes in particular special forced-themed movies and explains how it has actually done in real life.

In this video titled “Hollywood SF Mistakes”, he highlights something that we often overlook when watching military-themed movies namely finger always on the trigger, full auto or rapid firing with automatic weapons (often with an endless supply of bullets) and finally uniform. It is the smaller things that get noticed immediately.

Check out his other reaction videos and there is plenty to learn from each video especially when it comes to special forces missions and tactics. By the way, he rates Lone Survivor (2013) starring Mark Wahlberg as the best military-themed movie based on his standards.

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Another is C.W. Lemoine who is an ex-F-16 and F/A-18 pilot and an author, he did a reaction video to the Top Gun: Maverick trailer and instantly he points out a good deal of mistakes. Interestingly he also did a reaction for Malaysian-made Air Force: The Movie and he was surprised that the movie makers used a real Sukhoi Su-30 MKM (there is a great shot of the Sukhoi in its reinforced hangar).

The other is GQ’s movie scene breakdown by the experts and here’s one broken down by a Navy Seal:-

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Video caption: Retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink breaks down combat scenes from movies, including ‘American Sniper,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Navy SEALS,’ ‘Act of Valor’ and ‘Lone Survivor.’

Check out GQ’s other movie breakdown videos and it is very educational especially when you had thought the movie makers had got it right just for an expert to come along and kill the scene with the right tactics and logic.

military uri surgical strike tactics movie hindi

I rate the 2019 Hindi movie, URI: The Surgical Strike as one of the few Bollywood movies that got things right when it comes to military tactics. Perhaps because it is based on true events and they may have good military advisors on board for the movie production. The presentation of the story was well done with the base, the event, the after-effect, the planning, the execution and finally the ending. Image source: Bollywood Hungama.

Realistic Military Movies

The question is – is there one?

Is there such thing as a realistic war movie especially when movie makers often tend to overlook logic and facts (like the omission of the Malaysian armed forces’ participation in the Black Hawk Down movie) and exaggerate things in the name of artistic liberty to make war movies that they think will sell to the masses. It does not matter if it is made in Hollywood, Bollywood or Tollywood. Most movies actually suck except for a few that are worth watching over and over again.

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Video caption: War movies are not always accurate. Hollywood is known to take some liberties here and there, all for the sake of selling tickets. But which war movies depict life as a soldier most accurately? To answer such a question, it’s best to look to the voice of experience. Military vets have weighed in with their opinions in an effort to find out which war flicks are the most true to life. The following are the top ten most realistic war films, according to our uniformed heroes.

Among the top 10 military-themed movies listed above, I have watched Black Hawk Down, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. But then I think they missed a couple of movies which deserve some credit would be Platoon (1986), Patton (1970), Taps (1981) and Apocalypse Now (1979).

What is more important in military-themed movies at the end of the day is getting tactics and logic right. The worst ones make an absolute mockery of the military tactics, mostly with the movies from India.

Special Mention Tactics

As much as they are hated in some parts of the world, Israel’s Defense Force is a very formidable military force to reckon with, considering the environment that they are in. And it is very important that we are familiar with their tactics given that the military forces of Singapore and India are closely linked with the IDF’s tactics and military assets

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Video caption: Israel has been in intense combat since the day of its foundation. The need to survive, outrun and outgun their enemies has pushed the Jewish state to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions that can get pretty weird at times.

Interestingly they have some out-of-the-box tactics – one key one is the use of Mitznefet:-

The main purpose of the Mitznefet is to break up the distinctive outline of a helmeted human head via its floppiness and also prevent light from reflecting off of the wearer’s helmet, providing a tactical advantage and making it easier to camouflage when necessary.

Additionally, the bulk of the covering can be pulled down to shade and protect any side of the wearer’s head from direct sunlight exposure

(Source: Wikipedia)

Military Tactics German Operation Sea Lion World War 2

The battle plan for Operation Sea Lion that suppose to take place on September 1940 when Germany will invade Britain. The invasion did not take place as the German acknowledged that they did not have the air and sea superiority required to mobilise a large land invasion force. A superiority that came into play when the Allied forces launched the Normandy landings to recapture Europe. Image source: Wikipedia

Final Say

When it comes to the military, one cannot run away from the deployment of the right tactics whether it is as small as a 2-man team clearing an empty building from possible terrorists to a large one like attacking another country like in the case of Russia’s war with Ukraine.

In general, tactics cover 3 key areas namely:-

  • The deception covers the use of the right camouflage, electronic countermeasures, sending the wrong intel, using elements of surprise, etc
  • The defence covers the use of booby traps, defensive walls, defensive positions, getting the right intel, standby backup forces & assets, counter-attack strategy, use of the right terrain, etc
  • The offence covers doing pre-emptive bombardments or missile strikes, sending special forces deep into the enemy base, setting up the ambush, setting sniper positions, acting at the right time and weather to your advantage, etc

It is a mystery why movie makers with big budgets don’t get expert advice when they design a military battle scene so that it is realistic enough but also within the scope of artistic liberty. Some scenes are just outright dumb and not realistic.

Assume the audiences are smart enough to understand these tactics and if it is too complicated, give them enough information and explanation in the movie to explain the military tactics. At the end of the day, give enough credit to the audience to understand these tactics.

Then sew these realistic tactics with a concrete storyline which is LOGICAL and trust me, this small homework done by the movie makers makes a lot of difference and will be a must-see military movie.

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