Heartbreak Ridge is my favorite Clint Eastwood movie and that is saying something because there might be ten of his movies that I love, including Magnum Force, Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, The Gauntlet, Pink Cadillac, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and a few others. All of these movies have a few things in common: great stories, great writing, great casts and great quick-witted humor, all at times when you might think, “How could someone joke about that?”
Heartbreak Ridge was made in 1986 but takes place in 1983, about the time of the bombing of the marine barracks in Lebanon. Its about these lazy recon marines who are in the Marines to chill and have a good time. They are basically still in boot camp, as far as their level of training goes, and are seen by the officers at their base in North Carolina as screw ups, which is putting it mildly. Assholes would be more accurate.
Sergeant Tom Highway (Eastwood), a thirty year veteran of the Marine Corps who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, a distinguished member of the silent generation in this movie and in real life, is brought to this unit to get these assholes in shape and turn them into real marines. The problem is that Sergeant Highway’s superior officer, Major Powers, (Everett McGill) is an old school, by the book, tight ass who wants things done his way or no way. Highway is not in the Marines to play by anyone else’s book, so they clash.
Highway has to make these very young men, late twenties at the oldest, into marines with this tight ass major on his back the whole time and do it without losing his job. He takes his unit into battle in Granada to rescue some Americans. There are over two hours of this in the full version of the movie along with a lot of great humor from Eastwood and his crew. Teenage boys, maturity wise, become good U.S. Marines.