Will ‘West Pointer’ Be the ‘Top Gun’ of Army Movies?

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The U.S. Military Academy held its graduation ceremony for the Class of 2018 at Michie Stadium in West Point.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point held its graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Class of 2018 at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., May 26, 2018. (U.S. Army/Bryan Ilyankoff)

When Army veteran and West Point graduate Rod Lurie directed the Afghanistan war movie “The Outpost,” he got some of the best reviews of his career. He’s using that success to make what’s surely his dream project.

Lurie will write and direct “West Pointer,” which will follow an overconfident plebe who’s always been the best at everything he did. Once he enrolls at the academy, he faces real competition from classmates who are far more accomplished than the kids back home. Can he tame that attitude and become the kind of officer the Army needs?

Before “The Outpost,” Lurie broke through in his career by writing and directing “The Contender,” which earned Oscar nominations for Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges. He’s also directed “The Last Castle” with Robert Redford and James Gandolfini and an underrated “Straw Dogs” remake with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth. Lurie also created “Commander in Chief,” the television series with Geena Davis as the first female president.

Related: ‘The Outpost’ Powerfully Confronts the Contradictions of the War in Afghanistan

The director graduated from West Point in 1984 and served four years as a combat arms officer in the Army before embarking on a career as a film critic. Less than a decade later, he was writing and directing an Oscar-nominated motion picture. Many entertainment writers secretly believe that they’re more talented than the filmmakers they cover, but Lurie’s pretty much the only one who’s actually gone out and made a real movie.

Not only has Lurie succeeded in one of the toughest businesses in the world, he’s taken a career path that actually increased the level of difficulty of success. It’s easy to guess that he’s basing his new movie’s lead character on himself.

Lurie has cast New Zealand actor KJ Apa to play that character. While he’s well-known for playing Archie Andrews on the CW show “Riverdale,” Apa proved he is a legitimate movie draw when he starred in “I Still Believe,” the faith-based drama about Christian music singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp.

Back in the 1980s, the Navy was smart enough to cooperate with a slightly edgy movie about aviator training at Naval Air Station Miramar, one that didn’t follow the sanitized version of truth the Pentagon preferred at the time. That was one of the best recruiting choices the service ever made.

Now Lurie wants to film what’s sure to be an equally complicated portrait of officer training on campus at West Point. He made his case to the brass in a news release from Lionsgate Studios.

“Ever since I was a cadet, I daydreamed about one day making a movie set at West Point, which I believe to be the greatest college in the world,” Lurie said in the release. “As they say, the history they teach there was made by the men and women they taught. A motion picture has not been shot at the Academy since the 1950s. It would be the honor of a lifetime to be granted that permission. I want the world to learn what I know about my alma mater.”

If anyone’s going to make a movie like “West Pointer,” it should be an accomplished filmmaker like Lurie who’s got a deep understanding of the academy’s history and culture. There’s no way he’s going to be awed by the task, because he’s made a career out of telling stories about men and women who aren’t intimidated by the powerful. Here’s hoping he gets free rein to make his movie.

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