It is that time of year again — the new year fast approaches. Instead of the typical “best of” end-of-year list, I am offering this year a list of the movies (or television shows — I am not picky) that I would like to see Hollywood tackle in the coming year. There are still so many stories that need telling out there, and books that could benefit from the big screen treatment. With that in mind, here goes!
The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
Shortly after September 11th, 2001, when only a handful of CIA, British, and American Special Forces personnel roamed Afghanistan searching out al-Qaeda leaders, an uprising occurred at a Northern Alliance prison for captured Taliban and foreign fighters in northern Afghanistan. The resulting battle lasted for almost a week in late November/early December 2001, and led to the first CIA fatality in the Global War on Terrorism (of paramilitary officer Johnny “Mike” Spann).
The fighting between the hundreds of prisoners and the handful of Northern Alliance fighters, British and American forces, and CIA personnel saw incredible acts of heroism and harrowing close calls. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bass, attached at the time to the British Special Boat Service (SBS), was decorated with a Navy Cross for his actions, while Army Special Forces officer Major Mark Mitchell also received a Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism. Infamous “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh was one of only 86 captured prisoners to survive the battle.
The story of a prisoner uprising, in which the captured fighters took control of the prison armory, outnumbered their captors, and engaged in a ferocious revolt against outnumbered-yet-determined allied Afghan, American, and British forces, needs to be told. It is one of incredible heroism and fortitude in the face of long odds.
Robert’s Ridge (The Battle of Takur Ghar)
In March 2002, as U.S. military forces launched Operation Anaconda, a short but fierce engagement played out over 17 hours on the top of Takur Ghar mountain in southeastern Afghanistan. American special operations forces (SOF) battled with a group of al-Qaeda fighters, and in the ensuing fighting, seven Americans lost their lives. A number were also wounded.
As in many such engagements, great heroism was demonstrated on the American side as U.S. SOF tried desperately to save their own after an insertion helicopter was hit by small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, knocking Navy SEAL Neil Roberts out of the aircraft as it took off. Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman would later also find himself fighting alone on top of the mountain, as rescue efforts tried one after another to reach Roberts (and later Chapman).
Chapman posthumously received the Air Force Cross for his actions — the first Combat Controller to ever receive it in any war — and Combat Controller Keary Miller also had his Silver Star upgraded to an Air Force Cross for his actions. The desperate and heroic battle deserves an authoritative treatment.
The story of The Band
Not all of these movies-I-wish-would-get-made concern warfare. In particular, I would love to see the story of The Band play out on-screen. One of America’s seminal musical acts (made up mostly of Canadians!) got its start backing a 60s rockabilly act before they became Bob Dylan’s backing band while he recovered from a motorcycle accident in upstate New York in the late 1960’s. The ensuing collaboration essentially invented roots-based Americana rock, influenced all kinds of artists from Eric Clapton to Pink Floyd to the Beatles, and produced some of the greatest music of the era.
The tension between drummer and vocalist Levon Helm and lead songwriter and band leader Robbie Robertson would no doubt take center stage in the film, and there is ample source material with which to work, as both men wrote books about their time in The Band. There was also a tragic suicide, an epic final concert and film (“The Last Waltz”), and the death of another founding member, as just some aspects of the larger dramatic story. This piece of American musical history would be a real treat to see.
Justin Cronin’s bestselling three-part trilogy is an apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic) story that centers around a girl named Amy, the so-called Girl from Nowhere, who is no less than the potential savior of the last remnants of humanity. The world is besieged by a highly contagious virus that turns the vast majority of Earth’s population into animalistic vampire-like creatures. Cronin’s story takes place over a span of generations and is both gripping and original, despite it’s use of the well-worn vampire trope.
Cronin was inspired by his daughter to write the books, after she asked him to write about “a girl who saves the world.” He took the tasking and ran with it, to be sure. While the books were originally slated to be adapted to film by Ridley Scott, more recent plans seem to revolve around a Fox television series. I would rather see the story play out on a platform like Netflix or HBO, but am willing to give the Fox effort a try.
The Hunt for the 9/11 Conspirators
We have, of course, been provided with the story of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Ladin in the form of multiple books and a movie. What needs to be added to the canon is a recounting of the hunt — led by America’s intelligence agencies and parts of the U.S. military — for the plotters of the 9/11 attacks and the al-Qaeda leaders who guided the group in the early years after September 11th, 2001.
Many of the details surrounding the search for and capture of al-Qaeda senior leaders and facilitators like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Abu Zubaydah remain classified. However, there are likely enough details available out there in the open press to piece together a gripping tale of an international terrorist plot, and the resulting transnational hunt for those who carried it out.
I have not yet read Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow’s 2017 book about the former Union general and 18th President of the United States, but I sure as hell plan to do so. The author who brought us Hamilton (on which was based the widely popular musical) and Washington is sure to deliver and Ulysses S. Grant is due for a rethink in American history. This looks to be the book to do it, and a movie based on it would be pretty cool too!
The Rat Pack
Another entertainment story I would love to see play out, maybe in the form or a long miniseries or multi-part movie, is the story of the Rat Pack. Comprised of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, the boys’ club came out of a congregation that first met in the home of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the 1950s. Its more well-known lineup came together in the 1960s, as the men appeared together on stage and screen, usually with cocktails and cigarettes in hand, entertaining themselves as much as audiences.
The genuine affection and camaraderie of the men, as well as their love lives and reputation for heavy drinking, were the stuff of legend. How fun would it be to see their story play out on-screen, across the decades? Secure a good script, top-notch actors, and an adroit director, and give us all of the sordid details, assignations, and free-wheeling good times, and I do not see how one could not be entertained.
The Hunt for Imad Mughniyah
Hezbollah operational commander Mughniyah was one of America’s number one enemies before the rise of Osama Bin Ladin and al-Qaeda. Mughniyah was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in the 1980s, given his role in the Beirut Marine barracks and U.S. embassy bombings. He was also indicted for his role in the 1992 Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was Israel’s top boogeyman, too, before his killing in Syria in 2008.
The details of that death — which came in the form of a car bomb as Mughniyah passed by on foot — are deeply shrouded in mystery, with most assuming that American and Israeli intelligence agencies plotted and carried out the assassination. The story of how the hunt for Mughniyah played out would be one I would definitely like to see, assuming it can be told accurately and well.
This sprawling 2015 “hard” science fiction book by Neil Stephenson is a generations-spanning tale of the effort to preserve homo sapiens after the disintegration of the moon cascades into the destruction of Earth. Humanity must take to space in an effort to survive, and the realism of the effort to place a cache of people and materials into outer space is at once impressive and admirable on the part of the author. There are no “hyper drives” or worm holes to other worlds to save these last remnant of humanity. All they have is science and willpower, and they must overcome human nature and weakness in order to thrive.
One does not often think of the “genetic bottleneck” that might occur with only a small number of humans left to carry on the species, nor of the technicalities of creating a space-based civilization when one’s home world disappears. Biology, evolution, and the limits of technology all come into play, but the story does not suffer from the abundance of science. It is a rousing and thought-provoking tale that is reportedly already in development to be made into a movie.
The story of SOFREP
I mean, who does not want to see this play out on film? Two former special operations dudes create a SOF-centric website that changes the world and produces some of the finest writing ever seen on the internets? Not to mention the bro-mances, the internal tensions, the comedy, and the all rest?! Sign me up.
All images courtesy of Wikipedia.