The Red Right Hand

The Very Cold War

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Saul Metzstein
Jason Biggs
Natascha McElhone
Michael Ironside
Sean Tucker

Based on the novel ‘No One Thinks Of Greenland’ Scottish director, Saul Metzstein’s second film is trying to hark back to a style of film similar to M*A*S*H or Catch 22. This was attempted recently by Buffalo Soldiers, a film I thought was the perfect release amongst all the post-9/11, Gulf War II, happy, feel-good safe pictures that were being distributed. Unfortunately, this one falls short.

Filmed in both Iceland and Quebec, Metzstein believed he could film a big Hollywood war/drama film on the minute budget of a student Brit-flick; to give him credit it goes a long way and holds it’s own both visually and with performances - namely Biggs, who should finally be recognised as an actor and not ‘that guy from American Pie’ and Ironside, who always delivers. The film opens in July 1979, the cold war rages on and like so many military outposts of that time, men are sent there on a ‘need-to-know’ basis but are assured that they are a vital part of the war effort. The soldiers at the desolate Greenland base know exactly why they’re there and repeat it often during the film: There’s been a fuck up.

Pvt. Rudy Spruance is randomly dropped at the base, then attacked by mosquitoes. As Biggs desperately fidgets about the title appears behind him and you slowly sink into your seat, bracing yourself for another failure to impress from Biggs’ slap-stick style. He wakes up in the infirmary and is mistaken for a PIO [Public Information Officer] called Pederson. You become slightly more interested now, paying a little more attention. As October approaches and the ‘stark-raving-dark’ looms closer -a period of 24 hour night for most of winter- the plot begins to build, then it all goes horribly wrong. During one of the base parties Biggs sneaks off to follow Sgt. Teal [McElhone], who he is beginning to fall for. As he explores the hidden bunker she appears to have entered he find a room full of patients, soldiers, hooked up to IV lines, dialysis machines and other life-supporting devices. One of the patients is mumbling something, which Biggs recognises as poetry - conveniently he’s a literate soldier and can quote perfectly for the patient. Upon asking the patient what his name is, he cannot recall and asks Biggs to check his chart; it simply reads ‘X’

This is the problem. Guy X doesn’t know what it wants to be or what it’s trying to say. I interviewed the director and some of the cast and asked Metzstein what he was trying to say with this film and if there was any relevance to the current military deployments in Iraq. Hoping I would get a poignant and interesting answer he simply sniggered and said it seemed like a ‘slacker film’ and that appealed to him greatly. Ah… in other words he wanted to make a film about getting drunk and having sex? Well, that would explain all those ‘military parties’ and why there are young women on the base, but because it’s based on a book he has to follow the plot accordingly, yet still wants to throw in those ‘wild crazy’ moments. Pity.

By the end of the film very little is resolved and an unrealistic ending makes for a bitter feeling in the mouth. As the film starts you have little confidence but try to stay with it, then it builds and gets interesting, then falls flat on it’s face and you leave the cinema annoyed and feeling a sense of waste, something that could have been so good, squandered because of an award-winning director ‘having a bit of fun.’

Release Date:
14th October 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
After ‘Pederson’s’ first day on the base (after recovery) the squad hold a little prayer which the reverend makes them repeat, the final line being: “And we welcome Corporal Michael Pederson and are glad that he made it to us safely” “There‘s been a fuck up”

Notable Characters:
Although not the strongest role in a military comedy, this is a huge step for Jason Biggs, one which will hopefully spring-board him away from the ‘Sex-crazed Teen’ image he’s been branded with….. but I doubt it

Highlighted Quote:
“We’re the army, shit head. We guard stuff. It’s what we do”

In A Few Words:
Whenever a director says, ‘I had so much fun making this’ it’s usually a bad sign.

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon