How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cold War II

Cinematic simplicity

The Cold War only intensified Americans' and Russians' mutual fascination. In America, it provided all sorts of chest-pounding, nation-uniting political and cultural products. Heroes such as John Rambo, James Bond, and Jack Ryan, not to mention pop Cold War classics like War Games, Red Dawn, and Rocky IV, inspired new generations to the great cause. Moreover, America was always the undisputed winner in these films. They crafted a mythical world wrought with intrigue and danger. But it was a predictable world where all evil emanated from one center: Moscow.

One way to really appreciate how much the Cold War was a cultural-ideological goldmine is to compare it to the Global War on Terror. We're eight years in and the GWOT's impact on the silver screen has been a parade of socially conscious tearjerkers. Absent are the heroic epics where American values and might decisively triumph over the enemy. If anything, GWOT films mostly chronicle the loss of American innocence through sensitive tragedies that serve as therapy for the traumatic shocks of 9/11. Films like United 93 (2006) and World Trade Center (2006) focus on how hope and humanity are discovered at the very moment all appears lost. The films that do deal with the GWOT, like Syriana (2005) and Charlie Wilson's War (2007), are critical and multi-layered attempts to tell the whole story. In the end, they fall flat because they involve too many characters, too many locations, too many narratives, too many moral gray areas, and perhaps most important, they have no inspiring, mythic heroes.