A Bit Of Help From Movie Buffs Please

Heat-FNCThose of you who have been wandering through these virtual pages for a few years now, may remember a game I mentioned back at the end of 2012: Eternal Battle. Still in the works, and now even more grand and complex in its remit.

One of the periods I’ve been trialling it in is modern, or ultramodern conflicts, such as the war in Afghanistan. Asymmetric warfare is always a good testbed for rules.

My question is this: what movies can you think of which portray modern combat well? EB isn’t based on movies (mostly I use discussions with veterans, first-hand accounts, training manuals, and suchlike), but watching them is a fun way to get in the right frame of mind. And it’s a good excuse too… I’m watching war films for work, dear 🙂

There are lots of military movies about, but most are way too Hollywood for what I’m after. Fun sometimes (I watched World War Z last night), but not right. Interestingly, the film that servicemen most often tell me accurately captures modern small unit tactics (and which I found cited on an official Armed Services page the other day) is Heat, which isn’t a military film at all.

So what would you recommend? Something from Hollywood after all? Non-English language offerings? I miss most of those, I’m sure. Must be some great stuff I know nothing about.


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49 Responses to A Bit Of Help From Movie Buffs Please

  1. Sam Dale says:

    Speaking as a non-military type, and a mother, Black Honk Down is an obvious one.

    How about Dog Soldiers, when they first run into the dogs and are retreating at speed, while calling covering fire and moving the wounded.

  2. Laffe says:

    Two that springs to mind are the German Stalingrad from 1993 — avoid the recent russian version which is visually stunning but as faulty as most Hollywood movies — and the German TV series “Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter” from 2013.

    Depends on what you think is “modern”. As most modern small unit tacticts have their roots in WW2 I think it’s valid.

  3. Guillaume Gentile says:

    If you want guerilla, you might need to see this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0444182/
    it’s french (i’m too 🙂 sorry ;-)) and its action scene are pretty good.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Don’t apologise for being French, Guillaume. I’ve got several very dear French friends. Days of Glory is an excellent film! I can’t imagine it is all that comfortable to watch if you’re French though.

  4. Good choices Generation Kill, shows a unit as they develop from green to seasoned. Band of Brothers TV series, We Were Soldiers also shows chaos of war.

    Books try Germline (series) by T.C. McCarthy has that dark gritty reality and depth of war.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Still not caught up with Generation Kill. Good call. I’ll add that to my shopping list 🙂

      We Were Soldiers and BoB both have good “chaos” scenes. Very tricky to get right on the tabletop.

  5. Stefan says:

    check out the british series Ultimate force with Ross Kemp.

  6. Its difficult as friends who have served have said, so many things like limitlessness ammo and people running around in open, especially Captains and such in open, and all marching forward. Green troops are not like Rangers or Green Berets they do not take combat to enemy like that.
    Wounded troops hold you up, force you to pull back, pull them back etc. Films never really show this.

  7. Sam Dale says:

    The Pacific series has some, though a lot of the time it’s one side or the other dug in as the other lot charges at them.

    Saying the Dirty Dozen films doesn’t help one iota, does it? 😀

    Sons of Anarchy, while it’s never specifically military actions (though the characters involved are often ex-military, and almost always gang members), and they’re generally not protracted, does have a number of small team firefights that feel realistic.

    Full Metal Jacket’s got the sniper hunt at the end.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Even though Kubrick supposedly spent ages set dressing, I can never get over the (what seems obvious to me on screen) fact that it’s an abandoned gasworks in London rather than the perfumed city. The Mickey Moue fan club song at the end is genius though. I can absolutely believe that happening.

  8. The Battle of Algiers non english but worth looking up and Act of Valor may be of more interest.

  9. Jake, have you tried urban warfare training videos on Youtube?

  10. Chris says:

    I know a lot of people who can’t sit through Kajaki. Restpro cheats by being a documentary. Books tend to win out. There is a lot of footage from people in Afghanistan which highlights the empty battlefield quite well.

    • Poul Christian Secher says:

      You could do worse than the US made documentary “Restrepo”: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1559549/

      If you are feeling adventurous you might want to go with these Danish films:

      “Krigen”, which is a fictional movie based on real events. Some nice action scenes in the first part of the movie, but the second part deals with the aftermath of the main character’s deployment.


      “Armadillo”, which is a documentary on a group of young Danish soldiers deploying to Upper Gereskh Valley, Helmand, in 2009. It has a lot of actual action, and the film crew deploys into some quite hairy situations alongside the troops. This film was shot during my last deployment to Helmand province, so I know a lot of the guys in it 🙂 It is gritty, and maybe not for the faintest of heart, but very realistic 😉 Also, if you look closely at the gear worn by the troops in the film, you’ll notice that during some of the engagements the regular army troops are augmented with Danish SOF, the Jaeger Korps.


      2016-04-19 12:50 GMT+02:00 quirkworthy.com :

      > Chris commented: “I know a lot of people who can’t sit through Kajaki. > Restpro cheats by being a documentary. Books tend to win out. There is a > lot of footage from people in Afghanistan which highlights the empty > battlefield quite well.” >

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I quite liked Restrepo. Not sure it’s cheating to be a documentary, but I know what you mean. I’d watch it again though.

      Books are great and I’m the first to tell people to go and read first-hand accounts. I may have another post asking for book titles. Sometimes though, I just feel like vegging in front of the telly, and this was about finding more worthwhile things for that 🙂

      Not seen Kajaki, though I was watching the trailer yesterday. When you say people “can’t sit through” it, is that because it’s too close to the bone, or it’s rubbish?

      Helmet cams have made it easy to watch a lot of the Afghan and Iraqi battles in a fairly raw fashion, even when edited. And you’re right about the empty battlefield. One of the conundrums for figure companies is that modern (and one assumes SF) battles don’t really need models as you’ll rarely see anyone. Even from your own side, once things go noisy. I’ve been told several times over the years, by different companies, that I’ve got to put the toys on the table…

      Luckily EB isn’t for anyone but me 🙂

      • Chris says:

        Too close to the bone. Talking to people about their experiences is quite chilling. UK troops when their Vallon would show something, especially when under time pressure, had to make a decision about whether to investigate, go around, or simply stamp really hard on the ground and see if anything goes off. Took something of a toll on the point men. The US guys were far more gung ho, they would run to areas where comrades required support, accepting the chance of casualties far more readily then the Brits. I think from memory you see that in Kajaki.

        I think one of the problems is as things get more sophisticated the old find and fix becomes ever more uncinematic. Bad news for Hollywood and wargame companies…

        One of the most chilling things I have seen is interviews with teens who intended to fight in Fallujah. While they were giving the required amount of bravado after a few days of combat, their eyes were terrified. The marines would come to fight at night where they could see and those guys couldn’t.

        While a lot of recent actions seem to fall into the small unit skirmish category, the earlier stuff in the early 2000’s had people being far more bold and not beleiving that a platoon of western troops could honestly defeat their numbers. Many of the defences mounted in various places were unbelievably one sided. Not sure how you can capture that in a game.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          How to capture it in a game? My first step was to step well back and start from the beginning (without some of the normal gaming assumptions), by reading accounts and AARs to try and understand what actually happened. You have to make some allowances to make things practical on a tabletop and to make it a playable game, but far fewer than I think most games do.

          I’ve also written, played and retired many versions of EB already, not being entirely happy with the way things worked. They worked as games, sure, and I’ve seen worse in print, but they weren’t what I wanted. Once you go down a certain route you start to blinker yourself just by what you’ve already written. I’m after something very specific in EB, and it’s taken a long time to be happy with it. I finally think I might be getting there now, and being able to deal with replicating this sort of tricky reality is the harsh kind of test I want it to be able to cope with.

          We’ll see if this iteration works 🙂

  11. Stuart says:

    Lone Survivor- i expected so little- absolutely blew me away..

    • Quirkworthy says:

      One stand-out thing I took from that is the insanity of jumping off things, repeatedly. In one of the extras on the disk, the real life guy (forgotten his name) says, in passing, that someone broke something every time they did it. And it looked scarily real on film.

  12. jasb87 says:

    Black hawk down, definitely agree with that one. A bit Hollywood but captures the asymmetric nature of warfare excellently bit also how chaotic things can get in a heartbeat.

    Also the whole securing the crash site has a very nice in game mission vibe to it.

  13. I am an ex-soldier. We were shown the fight/flight scene in Heat at Sandhurst as an example of superbly coordinated fire and manoeuvre – the “pepper-pot” or “buddy” system in which one moves while the other delivers suppressive fire in short bursts designed more to interfere with the enemy’s freedom of movement than to actually deliver wounds.

    A favourite of mine was the Ghost Recon cinematic trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-wAzlqzXH0

    This is a little “over the horizon” in terms of the technology, but as an illustration of a special forces infiltration and the use of superior positioning to overwhelm a numerically-superior enemy, it’s excellent.

    Dog Soldiers was on my list but less for realistic tactics as it was for a realistic depiction of the emotional behaviour of soldiers.

    Saving Private Ryan is also commonly cited as a strong example.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I do like that Ghost Recon movie. What’s particularly nice is that all the future tech doesn’t feel all that future. At least, not when you keep an eye on what DARPA and friends are up to these days.

      I’ve been told the same thing about Dog Soldiers by other ex-squaddies. Clearly they got something right 🙂

  14. vaultage says:

    – black hat has some very brilliant gunfight scenes
    – black hawk down
    – american sniper

  15. Eric Tighe says:

    Lone Survivor, American Sniper, Hurt Locker

  16. Teemu Hemminki says:

    Not a movie, but I would recommend Full Spectrum Warrior video games, because they might be closest thing to modern infantry simulation.

  17. jgoldenf says:

    Black hawk down is the best for non-glamorized movies. I DO NOT recommend hurt locker. It is all wrong. I was in Iraq for a year and was trained in how IEDs are made and used so we could Identify their placements and Hurt locker is all wrong in that and in the story line…

    My rule of thumb is that a realistic war movie should not leave you feeling invigorated and or super charged. To portray war, you cannot remove the real feeling that loss of life brings onto the soul.

    • Sam Dale says:

      It’s possible that they deliberately made them wrong so random douchecanoes couldn’t get actual information on how to make them from the film.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Sam has a point. I’ve watched several making of which included just this point about one thing or another they had ion the film. Didn’t want to show the bad guys how it was done.

      Overall though, I don’t doubt you’re right about the IEDs, jgoldenf. Some interesting firefights though.

  18. edenchanges says:

    It’s not a war film but try Collateral with Tom Cruise. He plays a hit man and trained extensively in close range combat and weapon handling before doing the role. I’ve heard positive things about how he handles his weapon and the way he cases out hit targets.

    There is a scene set in a nightclub with the ‘target’ being surrounded by two rings of bodyguards which illustrates things nicely. That and it’s an amazing film.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The nightclub hit is an interesting fight. One thing it has that most games ignore is non-combatants. For those that haven’t seen it, Cruise enters a busy nightclub and tries to assassinate a target. As mentioned above, he is surrounded by bodyguards. However, the dozens of innocent bystanders (who panic at the sound of gunfire and generally get in everyone’s way) have a great deal of impact on the outcome. It would be interesting to try and model that fight specifically.

  19. The Way of the Gun has some excellent small unit urban firefight stuff, plus the slowest and most tactical car chase ever committed to film.

  20. Quirkworthy says:

    Also, I bumped into this dramatic scene from a film I don’t know (but will order) called The Veteran.

    I am guessing this is the climax to the film, so: big spoilers.

  21. Pingback: Game Design Theory: A New Benchmark For Modern Skirmish Games |

  22. lukyluke_147 says:

    Act of valors for small squads tactics (this movie was shot with real active duty seals), lone survivor, in particular the first part where the seals are pinned down and reduced to jump from the cliff.
    Try also the ‘Strike Back’ series (warning, first season and the other are very different), all the actors move in a very professionnal way in the firefights.
    Last (but not exactly what you are looking), I recommand l’assaut (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1793239/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1), It just show how messy a firefight could be even in a very tight environment

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Luke. Acts of Valor looks good. I think l’Assault came up on the Facebook thread about this post, and it looks like an excellent portrayal of modern combat.

      Not come across Strike Back, but after one video on YouTube I have a new post 🙂


      • lukyluke_147 says:

        strike back episode season3 episode 4 has a better scene:

        Oh, I forgot also this one: Tears of the sun. A very good example of a squad advancing while providing firing cover, and a fallback, men by men

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’d forgotten Tears of the Sun too. A somewhat depressing movie, but the long final battle you linked is a good one.

          Unfortunately, both clips show Hollywood’s obsession with huge orange explosions (and huge muzzle flashes). Ah well.

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