Film Treatment Paper: Firebase Phoenix

1: Concept of Paper

The movie, Firebase Phoenix, is an action-packed war movie with an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how regular soldiers live and fight in Afghanistan. Like the book that inspired it, the movie takes place “on the ground” and inside the armed conflict with an elusive and highly ideological enemy. The movie aims to familiarize the movie-going public with the methods, weapons, and fighting goals of our regular troops in Afghanistan. While there is a “hero,” the lieutenant, the main interest lies in the relationships of this particular platoon. The movie takes place over a few weeks while the squad of men led by the lieutenant tries to protect a river valley road from the Taliban who live in the area. A thankless task, the troops face daily threats of car bombs, snipers and mines as they patrol the road night and day. The excitement of brand new technology grabs the viewer as the soldiers try to outsmart and outgun the Taliban guerillas on their own turf. UAV’s, night-vision helmets and armed robots are the everyday tools of the trade of this technologized army. The good news is that unlike Platoon Leader, our troops are actually winning this time. The climax comes when the well-equipped Americans mow down the Afghan fighters who cannot withstand the superior information and fire-power of their enemy. The movie show-cases the new American soldier who can almost single-handedly take on a group of dedicated terrorists due to his advanced gadgets. However, even though the American forces are triumphant in the short term, their efforts are as doomed as our troops were in Vietnam. The Taliban simply moves on and starts a new fire-fight down the road, leaving the soldiers and the viewers with a feeling of hopeless despair.

2: Characters

James R. McDonough

McDonough is the Lieutenant in command of the platoon. He leads the platoon that is stationed at Firebase Phoenix.

SGT. Hernandez

Hernandez is the first squad leader in the platoon. He leads one platoon on the daily patrols of the river valley, ever aware of the presence of the enemy.

SGT. Bradshaw

Bradshaw is the other squad leader in the platoon.

Corporal John Killigan

Killigan is one of the Non Commissioned Officers in the platoon. He leads a fireteam, which is a unit of four soldiers. His job is to help protect the squad leaders whenever they are ambushed by the enemy.

Mahmood “Leader of Those Whose Limbs are Radiant” ali An Najmuththaaqib:

Mahmood is the leader of the Taliban gang who start firing on the US soldiers up atop Firebase Phoenix.

Mateen “Big Bang” bin An Najmuththaaqib

Mateen is the stupid idiot who eventually runs out into the open to shoot at the RQ-8 Fire Scout, only to be killed in the process.

3: Themes

The five most common themes that a war movie like Platoon Leader will have include Heroism, Cowardice, The absurdity of war, The brutality of war, and The underdog. Some other classic themes can include rare moments of irony and the occasional humor. Most of the movie will go along with moments of Heroism, Cowardice, and how absurd and brutal the war in Afghanistan really is. 

4: Locations. Pictures of the locations are in the Appendix

United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The Military academy is situated on 16,000 acres of land in West Point, New York with all of the campus being located on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River.

New York JFK International Airport

New York JFK International Airport is one of the main airports where soldiers fly out to the middle east. They will either fly commercial or via a military charter.

Bagram Airfield

Bagram Airfield is the main base of operations for all American and NATO forces arriving into Afghanistan. From there, the forces go to their corresponding areas of operation to maintain a presence for however long they need to be.

Firebase Phoenix: Overlooking the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Firebase Phoenix is a small firebase overlooking the Korengal Valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. The valley in which it is situated is 20km from the Pakistani border, northwest of the Khyber Pass and northeast of Tora Bora. One of the purposes of this firebase is to guard and help facilitate the rebuilding of the Pesh River Road.

5: Action Scene

As the United States Army troops are sleeping at FireBase Phoenix, overlooking the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, a couple of Taliban fighters are preparing to fire a couple of RPGs at the direction of the firebase. They fire them, not intending for them to actually hit the base, but to actually wake the troops up and get them fighting, which they eventually do. They then start firing at the base with their AK-47’s and the American forces respond back by firing their M240 and Browning .50 Caliber Machine guns and Grenade rounds. Eventually, Taliban reinforcements arrive and the US soldiers need help for the added fight against them. So they call in a drone in the form of a MQ-8 Fire Scout, armed with a nose mounted camera that the soldiers can view on TV sets in camp to help locate the enemy. One Taliban fighter notices the helicopter and comes runs out of his hiding place firing his AK-47 at it. This proves to be a stupid mistake on his part as an American soldier notices him and guns him down. The rest of the Taliban fighters stay concealed until they have to stop firing as they have run out of ammo. The fighters retreat and the Americans prove victorious, thanks to the help of the Fire Scout.

6: Dialogue Scene

Mahmood (In Arabic): OK, lets wake these infidels up from their slumber.

Mateen (in Arabic): Allah Ackbar, as he shots off a RPG

McDonough: Incomming RPG, everyone down, take cover!!!

BOOM!! the RPG explodes over the camp.

Hernandez: Lieutennant, where is that fire coming from??

McDonough: I don’t know Hernandez, we need to call in a RQ-8 Fire Scout!

Bradshaw: Anyone in the area, we need a Fire Scout ASAP, under attack by Taliban fighters!!

Killigan: Here comes that Fire Scout… Now where are those Taliban?

Mateen (Arabic): O look, a Fire Scout, I’m going to go out and shoot at it.

Mahmood (Arabic): Get back here you stupid idiot, don’t blow your cover!!

Hernandez: Taliban fighter shooting at the Fire Scout at 8 o clock and 2 miles downrange. Take him down!

Mateen: (Arabic): Allah Ackbar!!!

He is shot in the head by a well placed sniper shot.

Mahmood (Arabic): Nice going there genius, way to give our position away! OK guys, since idiot over there gave our position away, lets retreat to the hills!

Hernandez: Lieutenant, they are retreating! The battle is ours!

McDonough: True, but they will be back for more killing. You can count on that!

7: Pitch

This film is totally unique in that it will show exactly what our troops are facing in this endless conflict with Taliban fighters. Unlike the Vietnam war which was shown on the nightly news, the American public has viewed very little of what goes on in the Afghanistan conflict. The book, Platoon Leader, was made into a “B” movie and received less than stellar reviews from critics, mainly because of its low-budget feel. “Firebase Phoenix”, on the other hand, will have the same gritty feel of the “Platoon Leader” movie, but with far more finesse as our budget (attached) will attest. Also, the cast of this movie will be of a much higher caliber than that found in the original adaptation of this book. That said, the reason for the adaptation is that the book Platoon Leader had a realistic style, yet was not a true documentary. It focused on the American soldier of that time, the relationships among the men, and the heartbreaking challenges of leadership in an unwinnable situation. The basic situation in Afghanistan is parallel to this situation in Vietnam. Additionally, without exaggerating the blood and gore aspects of fighting, the book nevertheless subtlely conveyed its anti-war message. There is a true need for this film and the book Platoon Leader provides just the right kind of template to tell it. Again we will have the handsome, well-educated, naïve young lieutenant who is sent out to manage a battle-weary crew of men in a frightening and unfamiliar terrain. We will show the futility of war in this situation as the same conflicts erupt over the same disputed territory again and again. The contrast of cultures that defined the Vietnam war is again present; once again our troops find themselves fighting people they have no way to understand. Finally, we will show how the men bond with each other during the stress of this highly technological fight and how they too experience the hopelessness of their situation.

8: Appendix

United States Military Academy




New York JFK International Airport



Bagram AirField



Firebase Phoenix: Overlooking the Korengal Valley




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