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Posts Tagged ‘United States Military Academy at West Point’

Reacher”  —  streaming (TV) series:  Season 1 (2022)
This review is for the recently released Amazon Prime video / movie / TV series titled:  “Reacher“.  The series is based on the book series by the same name written by Lee Child (James Dover Grant CBE).  The book series first started getting released in the late 1990’s and comes out about one volume per year – so, yes, there are now about twenty-plus books in the series.  I’ve read the first four and then skipped ahead for one of the books which explained some of the character’s background.  I’ve also seen both of the Tom Cruise movies in which Tom plays the lead.  I’ve done a review of the first (here), but never got around to reviewing the second (which I’ll probably need to re-watch before finally reviewing).
Anyway, the main character – Jack Reacher – is played by actor Alan Ritchson.  This is the first role I’ve seen Ritchson in.  Reacher is a retired Army officer who served in a “special investigations” unit.  Some sort of super JAG / NCIS.  They only worked cases no one else could handle – blah, blah, blah.  Reacher comes from a military family, graduated from West Point (as did his older brother), and served with distinction during his career. Reacher retired as a major; a rank he regained after being busted back down to captain.  The series history differs from the books as over twenty years has passed since the first novel, so they’ve “re-booted” his life to make him younger for the series.  It’s also possible the character got an early-out / medical discharge as he doesn’t seem old enough to have graduated from the Military Academy and served a full twenty years of service for a “normal” retirement.  In real life, Ritchson is 37 years old, (although he looks younger to me) so I guess it’s possible.  Reacher is an expert with multiple firearms, hand to hand combat and has a photographic memory.  He is also given to sarcasm.
Reacher has no “social-media presence”, no driver’s license, no phone, no permanent address, no ID and no bags.  He has a passport, a couple of hundred dollars in cash and the clothes on his back.  He buys used clothes when he needs to change and tosses what he’s done with.  Reacher likes old-fashioned blues, so he decides to visit the home town of a famous blues musician (which his brother mentioned).  The night before he arrives in the town, the murders start…  Reacher is the only stranger in town and he walked into town on the same road near where the body was found.  He is arrested and off we go…
The series is a thriller / crime / action series loosely based on a bigger than life (6ft 5in) paladin who roams around the country with no ties, just trying to mind his own business and bring a form of “rough” justice to the world when he feels it’s needed.
So:  is the series any good?  Is it true to the books?  Is it better than the (two) movies?  Is the acting / dialogue any good?  Yes, pretty close, so-so and yes.  The season-series is broken down into eight episodes of roughly 50 minutes each, so you’re investing almost 6-7 hours which gives a lot more time to tell the story (book).  The fights are pretty well shot (choreography wise).  Given the lead character’s physical size, most of the fights involve multiple attackers / combatants – again, true to the book.  I found the series marginally better than the two Cruise movies.  I didn’t think the acting was much better, but I found the inter-personal dialogue to be better – particularly the lead’s sarcasm.
The books are good to very good.  Cruise’s two movies were entertaining action movies, but nothing to write home about.  Ritchson simply makes a better Reacher than Cruise does physically (not in acting, though).  Cruise is (maybe) 5ft 7in;  Ritchson is (maybe) 6ft 2in in real life.  Reacher claims to be 6ft 4in in the series.  He’s supposed to be 6ft 5in in the books.  In a funny (strange) way, although height was the biggest complaint about casting Cruise in the movies, it doesn’t seem to be a factor for Ritchson.  The problem remains:  a “BIG” lead requires more than a shorter cast and the sets just don’t deliver / convey the size of the lead character.
Final recommendation:  very good to strong recommendation.  If you are a fan of the books, you will almost certainly enjoy this series more than Cruise’s two movies.  If you are a fan of action / crime-thriller / vigilante genre (again), you will almost certainly enjoy this series.  Note:  There is some profanity and some brief nudity in a few of the episodes.  There is quite a bit of violence / bloody injuries across all of the episodes, but I’d put it closer to “Die Hard” style than to “John Wick” style.  The series is NOT appropriate for young teens or pre-teens (IMHO).
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On This Day In:
2021 Suggestions…
Dichotomy
2020 Until November… Then Vote
2019 Start With Health And Friends
Iterum Vale Tres*
2018 Tweets From The Disrupter-In-Chief
2017 Do We Still Listen To Her Silent Lips?
Not Now, Not Ever
2016 Why Do You Write/Blog?
2015 Can Your Repeat The Question, Please?
2014 On Faith
2013 My Name Is Charles Stein
2012 Faiths And Sorcery
Made And Kept Free
2011 Multi-Source Learning

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The Mask Of Command — book review
Today’s book review is for “The Mask Of Command” (1987©), written by John Keegan.  Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE (Order of the British Empire) and FRSL (Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature) was an English military historian, lecturer (at Sandhurst – the English equivalent of West Point) and writer.  Keegan is considered (in my opinion) one of the “modern” expert military historians. I understand his basic premise to be that conflict in general and war in specific is cultural and not necessarily an extension of political governance.  This is in contrast with Clausewitz who stated that war is politics by other means.  Keegan is criticized for “disagreement” with Clausewitz.
As a secondary aside, I started reading about military theory (“strategy”) back in my early 20’s when I began reading about generals (mostly Patton) and the works of B. H. Liddell Hart were recommended to me by a roommate.  I read Liddell Hart’s book:  “Strategy: The Indirect Approach“, which I must say greatly influenced my life by profoundly changing my view of the world.  My hope was to learn about leadership by studying the great generals.  Instead, what I found was that leadership is not the same thing as strategy and is, instead, founded on the person and the time in history the person lives, whereas strategy tends to be principled and more timeless.
This realization pretty much ties into the basis for this book, which is a study of four “great” commanders / leaders and looks at what made three succeed and one (ultimately) fail terribly.  The three successful commanders are:  Alexander the Great, Wellington, and U.S. Grant.  The failure is:  Hitler.
Keegan’s proposal in this book is based on “heroic” aspects (“title”) of military leadership:  heroic, anti-heroic, non-heroic, and fake heroic.  To do this, Keegan establishes the cultural climate of each commander and then tries to explain it’s (the culture’s) effect on the military leader via their proximity to combat and personal exposure to danger.  Essentially, for most of man’s history, muscle and physical courage were the requirement of military leadership.  As the age of gunpowder emerged, the risk to the commander increased and they were forced to withdrawal from danger and thus “military” leadership changed.  Alexander had to fight hand-to-hand to prove his courage while leading from the front; Wellington could stay within sight of his forces, but had to stay a minimal distance from accurate musket range;  Grant could not frequently approach the front lines;  and, Hitler never exposed himself to physical danger (with the exception of possible assassination) and used propaganda to convince his forces that he was a soldier battling at their side.
The book has five main chapters (one for each leader / type) and the last is about leadership in the age of nuclear weapons.  I found this the most fascinating (timely?) chapter of the book as it proposes a “new” type of post-heroic military / political leader and attempts to posit President Kennedy as this “ideal” leader.
While I found the book to be an interesting (sometimes fascinating) read, it was not an easy read.  Keegan loves his erudite words and his complicated phrasing of sentences.  The punctuation is “British” (I guess), and I found many times I had to go back and re-read a sentence or paragraph to figure out what the heck he was talking about.  Frequently, his sentences appeared to be declarative, but were, in fact, interrogatory (questions), or vice-versa, and you (“I”) couldn’t tell until you (“I”) hit the question mark or period at the end of the sentence.  Occasionally, even though I was aware of this writing style, Keegan still caught me off guard and I had to go back and try to figure out what he was on about.  Which means I knew it was happening, and anticipating it, but continued to find it distracting.
Other than this (quibble), I found the book to be quite enjoyable.  Keegan has a keen method of describing battles and you can sometimes feel yourself seeing the carnage and tasting the spent gunpowder in the air.  At less than 400 pages, it seems also to be a quick read, but I suggest not rushing head-long through it in one or two sittings as the book is widely considered to be a classic and deserves a bit of contemplation as well as enjoyment.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  This book is a classic for a reason…  The battlefield descriptions are superb and Keegan’s argument is well presented – even if not wholly convincing (to me, anyway).  Still, regardless if you are new to military history or a veteran of any military genre, I think you’ll enjoy this book.  There will, of course, be a few quotes from this book appearing on my blog in the coming weeks / months.
Two final thoughts:  1)  I was not (am not) convinced President Kennedy is THE model for the post-heroic commander.  I found Keegan’s reporting on / analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis a bit simplistic.  And,  2)  even if I had read this book on first printing, I doubt it would have influenced my world-view the way Liddell Hart’s book did.  Both are classics for any military reader, just different.  Just sayin’…
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On This Day In:
2019 #ContinueToResist
Except Willful Ignorance And Prideful Stupidity
2018 More Executive Time For #DumbDonald
2017 Watched The Inauguration
Two Geniuses
2016 Come Dance And Laugh With Me
2015 Looks Good To Me
2014 Desire For The Sea
2013 The Fierce Urgency Of NOW
Happy Inauguration Day!
2012 One Path
Sorrow And Joy
The Seven Year View
2011 Emergent Practicality

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O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts,
help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth.
May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.
Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking,
and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish.
Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life.
Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,
and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.
Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy,
that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.
Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life.
Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service.
Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance,
and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer.
Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country.
All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all.
Amen
   —    From the United States Military Academy at West Point web site
The actual page is:  http://www.usma.edu/chaplain/SitePages/Cadet%20Prayer.aspx
[With apologies to the USMA at West Point, I’ve reformatted the “Cadet’s Prayer” to be slightly more pleasing to my eye.  Please visit the site to view the prayer in it’s regular format.   —   KMAB]
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