As we bear down to wait out the worst of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, streaming services are upping the ante on the best movies to watch to fill our days. Unsurprisingly, many of them center on what we’re experiencing now: Pandemic. But where there’s a movie about an outbreak of infectious disease, there’s almost always a plotline that includes military intervention, and not all them get it right. Here are five of the worst.
A remake of George Romero’s 1973 classic, ‘The Crazies’ is a disturbing pandemic thrill ride where victims who are exposed to this pathogen become bloodthirsty killers. Unfortunately, the movie’s portrayal of the military is… negative to say the least.
In fact, it’s the U.S. military and its downed transport aircraft that infect the small Iowa town’s water supply to jumpstart this outbreak. As residents try desperately to escape the madness, the military has orders to shoot all civilians to prevent the spread and destroy all the evidence of the plane crash. Just when you think the main characters are safely headed to Cedar Rapids, a military control room feed picks up a satellite image of the heroes and zooms in to target them once more, presumably for termination.
From the very start of this movie, the military treatment is insane. It begins with a cover-up of an Ebola-style virus called “Motaba” that claims an entire African village, which the U.S. Army intends to weaponize. But thanks to a pesky escaped monkey, the disease eventually makes its way to America and wreaks havoc on a small California town called Cedar Creek.
Surprise! The virus mutates, and while the Army had a secret serum for the original strain, it can’t treat the second. This, naturally, forces the Army doctors tasked with treating the virus to commit treason to save the town from a reckless general, hellbent on wiping it clean off the map. On another note, can we talk about the absurd scenes with the Little Bird? First, why was Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character both a doctor and pilot? Second, he and Dustin Hoffman’s character Colonel Sam Daniels take an aircraft against orders, fly it up and down the California, land it on a tiny cargo ship, geti in a dog fight with attack helicopters, and then face off with a C-130, forcing its pilots to disobey a direct order? It’s ridiculous.
World War Z
This movie is a mess from start to finish even outside its treatment of the military. The zombie premise here is poorly depicted, and not at all reflective of the book on which it’s based. And the military effort portrayed is truly puzzling to say the least.
The gist is that there’s a handful of U.S. Navy ships stationed in the middle of the ocean as a plague of the undead ravages the continents. However, the operation is helmed by the United Nations, not the U.S. government, and there seems to be no cohesive chain of command. Even worse, the sailors aboard are callous, scare small children and send families to Canada when they’ve outstayed their usefulness. The military upside however, is the badass female soldier from the Israeli Defense Forces who loses a hand, takes it like a champ, throws back some alcohol and keeps going.
28 Days (and Weeks) Later
Rounding out the fourth and fifth movies on this pandemic list respectively, we’ve got the incredible “28” series. In the original ‘28 Days Later,’ patient zero is infected at a lab by the rabies-like Rage virus. Fast forward to England in ruins, and there’s no sign of people, much less a military presence. While these movies are awesome additions to the virus movie genre, the military portrayal leaves something to be desired. When the main characters do finally stumble upon the remnants of a military force, they find a nightmarish band of troops hellbent on torturing the civilians that cross their path for fun.
In its sequel, ‘28 Weeks Later,’ there is, of course, a highly militarized quarantine zone that no one can leave. Except two kids escape, of course, eluding U.S. forces, which for some reason are in charge of this British recolonization effort, and reawakening the disease. The troops are helpless to stop this outbreak and even more useless at protecting the one person that might be the key to a vaccine. Ultimately, the effort to procure the kid who may carry virus antibodies leads to the spread of the disease to Paris, France, and presumably the rest of Europe. But we’re still waiting to see if there will be a ‘28 Months’ or ‘28 Years’ movie to confirm that possibility.