Let's remember the larger factual context:
The Iraq war was based on a lie. That immediately means that the troops were exploited for others' political and financial gain. And a very small percentage of the US population were at all touched by it because there is no draft. And wasn't that "Shock and Awe" like fireworks -- like a terrific video game!?
Put aside expectations and look at what is actually happening in the film -- which is a fiction that tells the truth:
1. From the beginning, the troops are overwhelmed with fake flattery, including a limousine ride, and "promised," by a fast-talking huckster, a significantly large sum of money each.
2. Amid that a cheerleader approaches the celebrity "hero," who doesn't feel like a hero -- he was simply surviving -- as a celebrity "hero," hoping to add him as a dangle on her charm bracelet. When he, confused, refuses to play the role being imposed on him -- "hero" -- which he feels is a lie, she moves on.
3. One of the peers they meet is looking at joining the military because there are no decent jobs -- having been offered a bonus to enlist that those back from Iraq were not offered to entice their enlistments.
4. The troops are set up to "feature" during the football halftime, which is all a celebration of rah-rah "patriotic" red-white-and-blue spectacle. Who the troops really are, and what they actually went through, not only isn't understood, it is irrelevant. The concern is rah-rah "patriotism" and financial profits.
5. The owner of the football team, as it becomes obvious -- one should have seen it coming from all the disingenuous exploitation of the troops from the outset, beginning with a war based on a lie -- is about self-aggrandizement, and increasing his wealth, by putting on a fake "patriotic" show.
6. In the end, of course, the significant amount of cash offered the troops at the beginning ends up being chump change.
The movie is not about the troops; it's not even about the war, or even about how "the troops" are treated once back home. It's about a system of exploitation of the naive for the aggrandizement -- and financial enrichment -- of the exploiters, which began with no decent jobs as alternative to joining the military, and being mislead by "patriotism" and the promise of being "heroes".
It is a stunningly good film -- but no matter how obvious the scamming of the troops, from beginning to end, the dullards mistake it for a war movie about the troops, and "patriotism," and how the troops "serve and protect" the United States/freedom. The only things protected in the film are the ongoing scam, and the increasing wealth of the already wealthy, who entice with dollar signs, then after getting what they want, slam the door in the face of the "heroes," not even in the end actually coming through with the chump change.
The only people who should be "insulted" (to reference a "review" by the dumbed-down faction) by the film are those in it who used people -- "the troops" only some of them -- for political and financial gain, then discarded them.
The only criticism of the film I would suggest is that it's "message" is so obvious. The film is about, at core, unfettered greed and the false promises it makes. The conundrum is how so many are so blinded by expectation and false "patriotism" that they didn't see that which was directly and plainly in front of their faces.
As for the film being "somewhat cynical"? The exploiters are the cynics, the exploitation the cynicism; those troops who in the end see through it are not cynical, they are rightly disillusioned.
John Wayne was a draft-dodger. And he is dead. His fake "patriotic" heroics should finally be buried with him. The country needs to grow up; to stop glorifying and creating violence, the True Believers being the used, then discarded, collateral, for someone else's profit.