Nicolas Cage Continues to Be Irreplaceable

His latest role in Army of One proves his essential nature.

We are living in dark times. A cloud of evil has floated over us and the more we learn about this cloud the scarier it gets. For many of us movies serve as a sort of safe place to protect us from evil things. Just a few days ago the FSR crew got together and wrote about our “Happy Place” movies.

For those of you that read that piece you’ll know that I picked Raising Arizona and I prefaced that selection with some words about Nicolas Cage:

Anytime I’m looking for a movie to lift my spirits odds are that what I end up choosing will be something with Nicolas Cage.

My basic point was that Nicolas Cage never fails to cheer me up. And with that I’m happy to say Cage’s latest release, Army of One, had no problems bringing a smile to my face, even in trying times such as these.

Army of One is based on the “true” story of Gary Faulkner, an American who set out on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, allegedly because God told him to. Cage, sporting an awesome mane of straggly grey hair pulled back in a hippie-like ponytail with a bushy beard to match, plays the eccentric would-be American hero.

Faulkner is a man who seems to have been dealt a fairly rough hand. He’s a capable handyman who works construction but the jobs don’t come around all that often. He doesn’t have a place to live and as a result bounces around from place to place, sometimes staying at construction sites and some nights staying with one of his two best friends.

Further complicating matters is the need for Faulkner to get weekly dialysis on the account of his bad kidneys. Things begin to take a bit of a turn when he runs into Marci (Wendi McLendon-Covey), an old high school crush. The two immediately hit it off as they begin to reconnect and a romance begins to blossom. This sudden change in luck coincides with God (Russell Brand) appearing before Faulkner and giving out the orders to eliminate Bin Laden.

This would be a difficult task for any man to complete let alone a man in Faulkner’s position. He doesn’t know the first thing about Pakistan or how to even get there but that doesn’t stop him from trying. His first attempt is by boat but as most people know you can’t sail to Pakistan so that quickly fails. Then he attempts to hang glide in which I suppose is a slightly better idea but it has equally disastrous results. Finally he does the sensible thing and just purchases a plane ticket.

Gary never actually finds Osama but by all accounts he gets pretty close. Eventually he’s found passed out in a field somewhere and flown back to the States where he becomes a sort of insta-celebrity, doing television interviews and the like. He may not have accomplished his ultimate goal but he certainly went on one hell of a journey.

Odds are most of Gary’s story is fabricated. He suffered from hallucinations especially when he didn’t get his weekly dialysis and that likely had a lot to do with his whole experience. What we do know is that Gary did actually travel to Pakistan and that in and of itself is pretty impressive. And what makes Gary a good hero for our story is that despite being a little out there he seems to be a genuinely nice guy.

While Gary never gets Bin Laden he does emerge himself in Pakistani culture and comes to love the people of Pakistan which is kind of unexpected. I would have guessed that Gary would have been the type of post-9/11 American that was out to get anyone appearing to be from the Middle East. That wasn’t the case and from the real footage of Gary at the end movie it seems that this element wasn’t fabricated.

Army of One is a silly movie, no doubt, but it has a ton of heart. Gary isn’t easily deterred and he doesn’t care what people think of him. One of the things he says is that he doesn’t understand why people keep telling him he can’t do things that he’s already doing. That’s such a wonderful motto to live your life by. Amidst this bizarre mission from God Gary manages to find romance and purpose for his life. It’s a crazy purpose but a purpose nonetheless. And Cage of course nails the performance. He’s the perfect actor to portray an off the wall character who has his heart in the right place.

Cage isn’t the only highlight of the film either. Denis O’Hare and Rainn Wilson play a pair of US agents stationed in Pakistan. We don’t get specifics on what their jobs are but we know they’re there to look for Bin Laden and Gary is a risk to their operation. They have a few wonderful scenes together including a heated debate on who the best James Bond is.

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Also worth mentioning that Matthew Modine has a small role as Gary’s doctor. I may be wrong but I think this is the first time Cage and Modine have appeared in a movie together since Alan Parker’s wildly underrated Birdy. It was a pleasure to see Cage and Modine share the screen together again.

One bummer was the use of Paul Scheer, who along with Will Sasso plays one of Gary’s best friends. I get the purpose of the Scheer and Sasso characters. They keep Gary balanced but I’d love to see Scheer let loose alongside Cage.

America is transitioning in to only God knows what. We have no idea what the future holds, though all indications suggest a rough patch awaits. Army of One is a bright light during dark times. It’s Nicolas Cage at his Cagiest. It’s a representation of the best that America can be.