G.I. Jane (1997)

Introduction

G.I. Jane is a 1997 American action film directed by Ridley Scott, produced by Largo Entertainment, Scott Free Productions and Caravan Pictures, distributed by Hollywood Pictures and starring Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen and Anne Bancroft.

The film tells the fictional story of the first woman to undergo training in US Navy Special Warfare Group.

Outline

A Senate Armed Services Committee interviews a candidate for the position of Secretary of the Navy. Senator Lillian DeHaven from Texas criticises the Navy for not being gender-neutral. Behind the curtains, a deal is struck: If women compare favourably with men in a series of test cases, the military will integrate women fully into all occupations of the Navy.

The first test is the training course of the US Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team (similar to US Navy SEAL BUD/S). Senator DeHaven selects topographical analyst Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, because she is physically more feminine than the other candidates.

To make the grade, O’Neil must survive a gruelling selection program in which almost sixty percent of candidates wash out, most before the fourth week, with the third week being particularly intensive (“hell week”). The enigmatic Command Master Chief John James Urgayle runs the training program that involves 20-hour days of tasks designed to wear down recruits’ physical and mental strength, including pushing giant ship fenders up beach dunes, working through obstacle courses, and hauling landing rafts.

Given a thirty-second time allowance in an obstacle course, O’Neil demands to be held to the same standards as the male trainees. The master chief observes O’Neil helping the other candidates by allowing them to climb on her back to make it over the wall obstacle course. Eight weeks into the program, during SERE training, the Master Chief ties her to a chair with her hands behind her back, grabs hold of her and slams her through the door, then picking her up off the floor he repeatedly dunks her head in ice cold water in front of the other crew members. O’Neil retaliates, and is successful in causing him some injury, despite her immobilised arms. In so doing, she acquires respect from him, as well as from the other trainees.

Navy leaders, confident that a woman would quickly drop out, become concerned. The media learn of O’Neil’s involvement, and she becomes a sensation known as “G.I. Jane.” Soon, she must contend with trumped up charges that she is a lesbian, and is fraternising with women. O’Neil is told that she will be given a desk job during the investigation and, if cleared, will need to repeat her training. She decides to “ring out” (ringing a bell three times, signalling her voluntary withdrawal from the programme) rather than accept a desk job.

It is later revealed that the photo evidence of O’Neil’s alleged fraternisation came from Senator DeHaven’s office. DeHaven never intended for O’Neil to succeed; she used O’Neil as a bargaining chip to prevent military base closings in her home state of Texas. O’Neil threatens to expose DeHaven, who then has the charges voided and O’Neil restored to the programme.

The final phase of training, an operational readiness exercise, is interrupted by an emergency that requires the CRT trainees’ support. The situation involves a reconnaissance satellite powered by weapons-grade plutonium that fell into the Libyan desert. A team of US Army Rangers is dispatched to retrieve the plutonium, but their evacuation plan fails, and the trainees are sent to assist the Rangers. The Master Chief’s shooting of a Libyan soldier to protect O’Neil leads to a confrontation with a Libyan patrol. During the mission, O’Neil, using her experience as a topographical analyst, realises that when she sees the team’s map that the Master Chief is not going to use the route the others believe he will in regrouping with the others. She also displays a definitive ability in leadership and strategy while rescuing the injured Master Chief, whom she and McCool pull out of an explosives-laden “kill zone.” With helicopter gunships delivering the final assault to the defenders, the rescue mission is a success.

Upon their return, all those who participated in the mission are accepted to the CRT. Urgayle gives O’Neil his Navy Cross and a book of poetry containing a short poem, “Self-pity”, by D. H. Lawrence, as acknowledgement of her accomplishment and in gratitude for rescuing him.

Production & Filming Details

  • Directors: Ridley Scott.
  • Producers: Ridley Scott, Roger Birnbaum, Demi Moore, and Suzanne Todd.
  • Screenplay: David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra.
  • Story: Danielle Alexandra.
  • Music: Trevor Jones.
  • Cinematography: Hugh Johnson.
  • Editor: Pietro Scalia.
  • Production: Hollywood Pictures, Caravan Pictures, Roger Birnbaum Productions, Largo Entertainment, and Scott Free Productions.
  • Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures.
  • Release Date: 22 August 1997.
  • Running Time: 124 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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