[Editor's note: I did not finish my review of Martyrs  in time to post today. Look for it Friday, November 3!]
The approach here is even-handed, revealing how soldiers can be smart and heroic, as well as misguided and out-of-control. The trenchant idea seems to be that of the Pandora’s Box. If you release men with guns into an untamed environment, where danger is everywhere, each will respond in his own way. Some will find and adhere to a strong moral compass. Others will degenerate into sadistic violence.
with guns can, in a moment of impulse spark a conflagration that can’t be controlled.
In 1973, the Louisiana National Guard’s “Bravo Team” practices maneuvers in the bayou, tromping through nearly forty kilometers of treacherous and dangerous natural terrain.
Set in “the great primordial swamp,” Hill’s hard-driving polemic, Southern Comfort shreds typical bromides about “supporting the troops” and gazes instead, in rather even-handed at soldiers who are ill-prepared emotionally, intellectually and even physically in some cases, for their particular war.
Roger Ebert wrote persuasively about this metaphor, though notes the fact that it is plain early on: “From the moment we discover that the guardsmen are firing blanks in their rifles, we somehow know that the movie’s going to be about their impotence in a land where they do not belong. And as the weekend soldiers are relentlessly hunted down…we think of the useless of American technology against the Viet Cong.”