A seemingly minor character in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (a Marine in Afghanistan being interviewed by embedded reporter Kim Baker) makes an offhand comment on camera about how he doesn’t even bother to load his gun every day, and gets transferred to a new unit for his sins. During an argument later in the movie, Kim Baker is informed that the soldier had both of his legs blown off as a result. Remorseful (and probably looking for an endorphin spike), Kim tracks him down and visits him back in the States, finding him riding his John Deere at home with his family, expecting him to blame her for the loss of his legs and prepared to take any sort of verbal lashing he wants to give her. But Specialist Coughlin does not conform to the disability movie stereotype of the angry amputee who seeks revenge on the person they blame for the loss of their limb:
Specialist Coughlin: “Ma’am, I lost my legs because of an IED, not because of you.”
Kim: “I appreciate that. But if I hadn’t quoted you, you wouldn’t have been transferred. No, really, you can say whatever you want to me. That’s why I’m here.”
Specialist Coughlin: “OK, then let’s say you’re right. It’s still not ’cause of you, ma’am. Some 12-year old hadji had to plant that bomb. And hell, if Bin Laden’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced, maybe none of us would have been in this damn to begin with. And the Taliban, they wouldn’t have even been there for UBL, if Breznev hadn’t gone and fouled up Afghanistan in the first place. And the British Empire. Oh, and Kim Baker.”
Kim: “OK, I deserved that.”
Specialist Coughlin: “Goddam! When you got no legs, everyone takes everything so serious! There’s only so much any of us have any control of, good or bad. If you didn’t learn that in Afghanistan, you were not paying attention. I mean, ma’am, Kim,
you gotta move on. You’re giving yourself way too much credit. You embrace the suck, you move the fuck forward. What other fucking choice do we have?”
Based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography of the same name, American Sniper encompasses several depictions of injury and disability sustained during the Iraq war, not the least of which is the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of Navy SEAL and sniper Chris Kyle himself. Once back stateside, Kyle encountered a former soldier and amputee whose life he had saved, who thanked him but–possibly recognizing some signs of PTSD–strongly urged Kyle to join them down at the VA. After an incident where he nearly kills a dog at a barbecue, Kyle decides to do just that. The VA doctor tells him that there are plenty of men who still need saving right here at home, and introduces Kyle to some of the wounded warriors still in recovery there.
Kyle begins taking the men out shooting “to get their balls back”, and the resulting discussion inevitably turns to how they acquired their injuries. In a memorable scene, one soldier credits his smoking habit with saving his right hand; he had been reaching for a cigarette when the IED hit, just far away enough from the blast that took away his legs and left hand. The soldier, Specialist Bryan Anderson, and his story were the genuine article, urged by star Bradley Cooper to tell his story candidly.
Another soldier Kyle visits is his buddy Ryan “Biggles” Job, wounded and blinded when he was shot in the face. Biggles is depicted as having died on the operating table shortly after his injuries and asking his girlfriend to marry him. In real life, Job was blinded in battle in 2006 when an enemy sniper’s bullet struck his rifle, sending pieces of the shattered weapon through his face. He survived much longer than he does in the movie. He was discharged from the military, got married, attended college, got a job, and climbed Mount Rainier and Mount Hood. Job died in 2009 from complications after going back for more facial reconstructive surgery while his wife was pregnant with their first child.
After Earth wouldn’t be worth a mention on Disability Movies but for a brief exchange between the hero, Cypher Raige, and a wounded soldier who wants to be helped to his feet to salute him. Raige tries to dissuade him from getting up, but the soldier insists since Raige’s actions meant he lived to see his baby girl, and Raige helps the man back to his wheelchair.
We note that the soldier is using a minimalist white plastic motorized chair that looks for all the world like a lawn chair from Kmart, and wonder why wheelchair seating technology doesn’t seem to have improved much in the future. Perhaps as refugees from a polluted and dying Earth, all their assistive technology is fabricated on demand by 3D printers? At least it looks like there are no actual wheels on the base, so maybe the much longed for antigravity hoverchair has finally been invented.