Heartbreak Ridge Movie Review (1986)

In 1986, Clint Eastwood delivered one of his most iconic performances in Heartbreak Ridge, a gritty and unforgettable war movie masterpiece.

Heartbreak Ridge Movie Review (1986)
Heartbreak Ridge Movie Review

This classic film follows the story of a grizzled U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Thomas Highway, who is assigned to train a group of undisciplined recruits before leading them into combat during the American invasion of Grenada.

The Plot

At the heart of Heartbreak Ridge is Gunnery Sergeant Thomas "Gunny" Highway, a seasoned Marine veteran nearing retirement. His final mission is a daunting one: whip a group of misfits and troublemakers into shape as a cohesive and battle-ready platoon.

"I'm going to run you out of the corps, Highway. And you know what's funny? You're going to do all the work. Sooner or later you'll disregard procedure, disobey an order, or just get drunk. You can't help it. You're too old, too prideful,... too stupid to change. I'm going to enjoy seeing you fall, Highway."

Highway clashes with the by-the-book battalion commander, but he is determined to succeed, not only for the sake of his platoon but also to redeem himself one last time. As he confronts his own past and personal demons, Highway must transform his ragtag group of recruits into a well-oiled fighting machine.

The film culminates in a gripping battle sequence during the American invasion of Grenada, where Highway and his platoon are put to the ultimate test.

The Cast

Clint Eastwood delivers a powerful and unforgettable performance as the gruff and uncompromising Gunnery Sergeant Highway. His tough-as-nails persona and unwavering dedication to his men are truly captivating.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with standout performances from Mario Van Peebles as the rebellious Corporal Stitch Jones and Marsha Mason as Highway's ex-wife, Aggie. The ensemble cast brings depth and nuance to their characters, creating a memorable and believable military unit.

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The Themes

Heartbreak Ridge explores the changing nature of the U.S. military, with the clash between the old-school Highway and the more modern, by-the-book leadership. It also delves into the sacrifices and personal toll of military service, as seen through Highway's troubled personal life.

"I've drank more beer, pissed more blood, and banged more quiff than all you [expletive] put together."

At its core, the film examines the concept of honour, duty, and the true meaning of being a soldier, resonating with audiences on a deep and emotional level.

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Filming Locations

The film was primarily shot in California, with some scenes filmed in Grenada during the actual U.S. invasion, lending an extra layer of authenticity to the war sequences.

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Heartbreak Ridge Trivia

The use of a credit card to place a long-distance landline fire support is based on an actual event in the Operation Urgent Fury Grenada action. A U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. rescuing the Governor General placed a calling card call to S.O.C.O.M., which brought an AC-130 gunship to bear on an A.P.C. that was firing on them.

The sequence involving the bulldozer was based on a real event. The officer who actually did what Clint Eastwood portrays was John Abizaid, at the time a Captain and a Ranger Company Commander. Abizaid recently retired as the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander, in charge of all U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East.

Though he has acted in earlier war movies and directed others later in his career, this is the only war movie of Clint Eastwood's where he both acted and directed.

The title was derived from the Korean War's Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, also known as the Battle of Wendengli. It was fought between September 13 and October 15, 1951.

To get into character and understand the mind of a highly decorated Marine, Clint Eastwood shadowed Marine and Navy Cross Recipient James L. Johnson (J.J. Johnson, nickname). After many deployments to Vietnam, J.J. was told he could not deploy again after requesting an additional deployment. This tough-nosed man was perfect for Clint to shadow for some time. Eastwood even does a name-drop for James L. Johnson during the Ball scene while wearing his dress uniform. "What would J.J. Johnson do?"

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The Legacy

Over three decades later, Heartbreak Ridge remains a cult classic and an underrated gem in Clint Eastwood's illustrious filmography. Its enduring popularity and influence on the war movie genre are a testament to its powerful storytelling and memorable characters.

One Metacritic User Wrote:

'Heartbreak Ridge' is a rather good war film, one I enjoyed a fair bit. Clint Eastwood, to no-one's surprise, is the best performer from the onscreen talent, though I did like the support cast - namely Mario Van Peebles, Boyd Gaines and Arlen Dean Snyder. The plot is, although obvious in where it is heading, fun and holds one's attention. The score doesn't particularly stand out but there is one part around the middle which is neat. Some of the dialogue is a little cringe, but there are some good lines in there for Mr. Eastwood to quip.

If you haven't had the chance to experience this gritty and compelling war drama, now is the perfect time to revisit or discover this Clint Eastwood gem!

Rewind Zone Rating: 72/100

Heartbreak Ridge is a must-see for fans of Clint Eastwood, war movies, and classic cinema. With its gritty realism, powerful performances, and thought-provoking themes, this film has cemented its place as a timeless classic and seemingly getting better with age.

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