In Country

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High school graduate Samaritan (Lloyd), estranged from her mother (Allen), is looked after by “traumatised” Viet-vet uncle Emmett (Willis). She longs to find out more about her dead father, who was killed in action, whilst he plays Pacman and slowly goes


The very first shot of In Country induces a distinct case of deja vu. The Stars And Stripes flutters over the airfield as a General barks at the serried ranks of fresh-faced Gl’s - “you depart today to fight the forces of Godless communism”.

Thankfully, the film doesn’t dwell too long on the already well-documented business of the Vietnam war - just a few swirling choppers and a few recruits being sniped at by the V.C. in the undergrowth. Rather, it chooses to focus on the aftermath, 15 years later in backwater Kentucky. Living with her uncle, unfulfilled by life in Hopewell (sic), Samaritan longs to learn more of the father she never knew (he was killed in action when she was a baby), so she reads his diary and letters from the frontline and even sleeps with one of his colleagues. It’s all to no avail, however, because she remains hemmed in by the small town - “they all act as if there’s some deep dark secret”.

Willis, meanwhile, aimlessly plays Pacman (yes, he’s that alienated), practises his “ten thousand yard stare” (apparently brought on by Agent Orange) to the sound of mournful Springsteen, and chews the cud with his vet buddies at a down-and-out bar: “People just don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, Vietnam never happened.”*There is a thunderstorm which heralds the inevitable ‘Nam flashbacks (startlingly not accompanied by The Doors), and Willis takes to waxing lyrical about “beautiful white birds” for no apparent reason.

The Vietvet vehicle - unlike the babyboom comedy or the underwater epic - is obviously here to stay. But Willis has been quoted as saying that In Country has something new to offer: “Up to now, our country has received only fragments and glimpses of what happened to these men,” quoth he. (Obviously, he’s never seen Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, First Blood or Jacknife. A letter from Lloyd’s dad sums up the film more eloquently. “It seems,” he writes, “like we’ve been In Country forever.”

Comparable to The Deer Hunter only in that it's relentless mundanity might inspire a game of Russian Roulette.