The in-development film Raven Four-Two tells the story of a battle in 2005 between insurgents and a Kentucky Army National Guard Military Police Unit, during the war in Iraq. Documents released by the US Army reveal that the film is being produced by two former Army Public Affairs officers, and is explicitly designed to help with military recruitment and the Pentagon’s PR mission.
The documents are mostly from 2015-2016, so it is unclear whether the movie is ever going to be produced. The website for the movie is currently unavailable, but IMDB still lists it as an in-development project. The files are heavily redacted, and include a copy of the draft script which is fully redacted on every page.
That’s right, rather than simply tell me that the draft script is commercially confidential and therefore cannot be released, the Army preferred to waste time redacting every page of the near-120 page screenplay and send that to me. Rest assured, I sent some mocking emails to the Army in response, including reminding them of the classic graffiti ‘Military Intelligence is an Oxymoron’.
Despite the redactions the documents do contain some revelations, including the producers’ desperation to turn the film into a recruitment poster and PR ‘win’ for the Army and DOD. One email from the producers to OCPA-LA says:
████ and I are both Army Public Affairs veterans and are anxious to tell this story that showcases the Army in such a positive way.
A letter to Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno (now retired) shows that the film’s development was the result of the Army entertainment liaison office’s outreach programs in Hollywood:
l was both pleased and excited to hear from you that the Army was finally reaching out to Hollywood film makers to tell “The Army’s Story” in the same way the Navy has done, and done very successfully.
With your encouragement and those of some of your Command Staff, my company began researching inspiring stories involving the men and woman of today’s Army. Through an exhausting process, we discovered a story of professionalism, honor, courage and heroism in which every member of the military and the theater-going public will take pride.
The letter goes on to note that:
I have been personally told by numerous people along the command chain that [this] is a story the Army wants to be told.
It was clear to me, through your presentation, that you understand the power and importance of promoting the Army though all forms of the film and entertainment industry. However, I cannot help but feel, your understanding may not be shared by those who may be unfamiliar with the workings and potential impact of the film industry.
Positive driven entertainment in, about and for the military is good for the Army and good for the nation. Just ask the Navy. Since I first heard you speak, the Navy has benefited from no less than four feature films and two on-going television programs; every one of which has provided the Navy with numerous recruitment, financial and Public Relations benefits.
An email describes the plot of the film – which sounds like every other ‘US Military vs the Swarthy Hordes’ movie ever made.
During an intense 46-minute battle between the ten-person MP squad and an estimated 40-50 Anti-Iraqi Forces, they killed 27 AIF, wounded six and captured one while suffering only three non-life-threatening injuries. The squad demonstrated exemplary heroism, professionalism and expert tactics in defeating the enemy.
Ironically, in a press release about the movie one of the producers tried to make out that this is different to Rambo, Lone Survivor, Rules of Engagement, Black Hawk Down, The Long Road Home and dozens of other films with nearly identical storylines:
“The story tells itself”, ████ said, “the overwhelming battlefield odds they overcame, and the individual valor they displayed, far exceeds anything Hollywood could write.”
Further emails show that the producers were explicitly trying to make the film to promote a ‘positive view’ of the Army, with corresponding recruitment benefits. It says:
This film will provide a great benefit to the Army and the Department of Defense by increasing public understanding of the Army in how it accurately portrays the professionalism, heroism and competency of our Soldiers in combat. It also provides an accurate depiction of an occurrence that received international recognition; an event that is featured in the Army Women’s Museum.
The film also showcases the equipment and technology that Soldiers use on the battlefield today. Highlighted are Apache Helicopters, Stryker Combat Vehicles and all their digital displays. This will attract a young and technologically smart audience providing significant recruiting benefit. Highlighting woman in combat roles will also provide recruiting benefit and further advance a positive view of the army.
Indeed, the producers were so keen that their film would meet with Army approval that they offered to not only rewrite the script, but even schedule the production timeline to ‘meet the needs’ of the military.
We remain flexible in adjusting script elements and production timelines to meet the needs of the Army.
Exactly what has happened to this production is uncertain – it may never go into production (and hopefully it won’t) but these documents emphasise several key points about the relationship between the military and Hollywood. (1) That there are now hundreds, possibly thousands, of US military veterans working in the industry as auxilary entertainment liaison officers, advancing the military’s objectives, (2) That it is often the producers of films who turn their products into military propaganda, even before the liaison offices have seen the script and (3) That the Army are snowflakes who feel that Hollywood isn’t making enough pro-military, pro-war movies so they are deploying outreach programs to try to maximise the number of times audiences see the same fucking story that’s already been made 200 times.