The movie begins with a heated battle between aspiring Secretary of the Navy Theodore Hayes (Daniel von Bargen) and Senator Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft). The basis for the argument is quite simple: Hayes believes the Navy's position on women in the armed forces is fitting, while DeHaven pulls out the old feminist attitude and opposes his views. Thus begins their battle, which will rest on the shoulders of one female recruit who, if strong enough to pass the Navy SEALs training procedures, will prove once and for all that women have a place in the military.
That's where Moore's character comes in. Moore plays Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil, the intelligence officer called upon by DeHaven to take on the challenge of training. Though hesitant at first, she accepts. When she arrives, she finds that her superior officers are prepared to make changes in procedure due to her gender, and she is despised by almost all of her squad members. Most aggressive is Master Chief Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen), who sees fit to run her into the ground and make an example of her willingness to participate in the training with no special treatment.
For its star power, I recommend the movie. Demi Moore, for all her physical build-up for the role, truly embodies the courageous attitudes and ideals held by O'Neil. As with many of her previous roles, Moore has always excelled at playing strong-willed women characters, and this one is no exception; in fact, it's one of her finest roles. There are times when the movie seems to be working with her, and then there are instances when she literally carries the movie on her shoulders, such as her brutal standoff with Urgayle, which contains a priceless line of dialogue on her part.
As for the movie itself, it remains serviceable throughout most of its duration. The political subplots that threaten her very existence in the military have a certain sense of logic to them, carrying with them the message that power is everything when it comes to government matters. The unflinching look at the training of the SEALs is hard-hitting and, at times, dramatic enough to sustain interest for long periods.
And then the movie seems to be going downhill. A subplot involving O'Neil's boyfriend threatens to cast him in a bad light when he agrees to keep tabs on her for those who would destroy her credibility, while the revelation that Senator DeHaven was behind her sudden downfall seems contrived and misplaced. The final act of the film, a cliche-driven attempt to give the characters a chance at heroism, feels forced and holds little impact.
If you must see "G.I. Jane," then see it for Moore's outstanding performance, as well as those of some of her costars. As a stand-alone film, it provides some good popcorn-munching entertainment, but it never takes off as it should, and eventually it gets tedious. But hey, where else would you be able to hear a shaved-headed Moore growling the words "Suck my d---?"