Archive Page 2


5. A Bridge Too Far

Right then, back to the blogging.  Have had a bit of a hiatus from the writing, but have still been doing the watching.  Something of an epic in my eyes, this film covers a World War 2 campaign and attempts to dramatise from the operational level down to the troops on the ground.

Who could look at this picture and say that war isn't fun?

The western front has progressed somewhat from the time of Saving Private Ryan, and the Germans are on the backfoot and trying to come to terms with a war on multiple fronts.  The Allies for their part are struggling with an ever-extending supply line, and frustrated by not being able to deliver the killing punch, Field Marshall Montgomery hatches a plan that would cripple the German war machine at a stroke.  Operation Market Garden, as this was called, has become one of the most famous campaigns of the war, and the subject of a friend of mine’s masters study, so I have heard not a little of the facts, theories and myths surrounding the battle.  To cut a long story short, it ended in an Allied defeat after the over-ambitious plan failed to account for various incidents of bad luck.  Of course, failing to account for the unexpected has been the downfall of many a battle plan in the past, so that’s not much of an excuse.

The fighting around Arnhem cemented the British Airbourne as one of the outstanding fighting units of the war. It's very British to lose in style.

The film ticks many of my boxes for an old-school war epic- extensive duration, lots of big name actors and the sort of shooting that makes war look like fun.  There are some gripes I have with the movie, though.  It appears that British High Command has a myopic view that the scheme can only end in success, and everyone else is convinced that it can only fail.  There’s a lot of judgements made that should only have come with the benefit of hindsight.  Some of the acting seems a bit wooden too.

Overall,  a great sunday afternoon film, although a hefty time investment.



Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

OK my fourth film review and I wanted to avoid another World War 2 production in order to keep it interesting (for me, not for you).  So it’s time to rewind to 1805, when Britain found itself at war with France (again).  Britain’s Royal Navy controls the seas to support this massive mercantile world power, and Napoleon set the French Navy the unenviable task of breaking the stranglehold.  In Master and Commander, the French have dispatched a new ship, the Acheron, to the southern seas with the objective of smashing Britain’s commerce in that region.  HMS Surprise, with Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), is tasked with stopping them. 

The shooting matches avoid one of my period bugbears- exploding cannonballs

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film, having half-watched it in the past with my parents, and the 138 minute label on the back of the case had me concerned that it would drag.  However, I found much inside to my liking.  I have a soft spot for films that genuinely seem to have done some research into the period, and it was good to see that the various ranks of the crew were all addressed, even in the closing credits.  Knowing a little about this myself, it was geek-tastic to see discussions on ship-classes and gun-ratings, although I wondered how this would be taken by someone with no prior knowledge. 

The ship's doctor (left) acts as a moral compass for Captain Aubrey throughout the film

Anyway, most people I’ve talked about Master and Commander with seem to be luke-warm on the film, and I think I’ve puzzled out why.  It simultaneously tries to be an action film, a drama and a study of life on board a Napoleonic-era fighting ship.  Pains seem to have been taken to fulfil each of these desires, and this contributes to the considerable length of the film, whilst viewers who enjoy one aspect will find the parts they like interspersed between sections that don’t hold their interest. 

War face- grrr...

Overall, I have an interest in the period, and found this a genuine attempt to stay within the historical context, meanwhile telling a fine tale with not a little swashbuckling on the high seas.  The film is definitely one that I’d have to be in the mood to watch though, due to its length and lack of a definite “action fix”.



3- Where Eagles Dare

My dad loves this film.  This was a Sunday late afternoon film when I was little, so as such I think I grew up with a sense of loathing for it, knowing that it would be school tomorrow.  Then I remember watching it once whilst at University, and realising how fantastic it is.  This was still so long ago now that when I saw that this was, quite deservedly, on ‘the list’, I relished the treat I had in store.

To summarise the plot, a handpicked team of (predominantly British) Allied specialists is dropped into German territory to effect the escape of a captured US General from the evil Nazis.  The US General has knowledge of the pending D-Day invasion plans, so the clock is ticking to rescue him before he breaks, and to top it all off he’s being held in an impregnable fortress.  As the mission begins, it becomes apparent that the Allied team has a saboteur within, working to kill off his fellows and foil the plan.

Being spies, the stars get to dress in the snazzy uniforms of the German Army. I'm sure this was a clever move on the part of the filmakers

There is so much to enjoy about this film.  It mixes the tension of a spy film with the action of a war film, and very well indeed.  Richard Burton (who I first ever heard as the narrator to the War of the Worlds) is brilliant as the consummate British spy, and lends his skills as a first-rate actor to a genre that sometimes doesn’t get the best.  Clint Eastwood does excellently as the cold, efficient killer from the American secret service.  Mary Ure portrays an excellent female character, a highly capable operative from a genre and time when ladies weren’t given particularly strong roles.  That said, many films these days show female characters as some unusual blend of cyborg and ninja, so another plus for this film is that the girls are simply as competent as the men.

The British are unflappable, the American shoots stuff (a lot), the Germans are flavourless and the Gestapo officer is sneaky and suspicious. All war-film stereotypes, but Where Eagles Dare stands out from the crowd.

Where Eagles Dare works on all levels for me- in visuals, sound, and story.  Everyone should watch it at least once.  A film over 40 years old that still carries itself as well as any modern offering I can think of.



2- Troy

When I agreed to join in on this blog challenge, I was fairly surprised to find this in the list of films to watch.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad film, well I guess I am actually.  That makes me look a bit silly when I admit that I own the DVD, and hence also why this is my second film review.  My DVD cataloguing system is organised so that the more commonly watched are on top of the pile on the shelf, with those less fortunate titles gravitating downwards into obscurity.  To indicate where this film stands in my esteem, allow me to say that it was, prior to its excavation, buried under such cinematic masterpieces as ‘Be Kind, Rewind’, ‘Borat’, and ‘The Ninja Squad’.

The battles are pretty inspiring stuff. Why are all ancient kingdoms portrayed as such arid wastelands, though?

Where to begin?  The plot follows the legendary siege of the ancient city of Troy, and more particularly it’s great hero, Achilles (Brad Pitt).  Just like the classic sword and sandals-style films, it portrays a time when men were men and Brad Pitt certainly is more man than the other men who are men.  Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) stands out as a man who is less of a man than the other men, who are men.  Thinking about it, this was the fourth film involving a large siege that he was in in a short period of time.  He must have been quite adept at acting on the top of walls by the end of it.  Anyway, the confrontation between the protagonists places a collection of Greek kings and warlords (including Achilles) on the outside, and the defenders of Troy (including Princes Paris and Hector- Eric Bana) on the inside.  I could go into the details of the plot, but to be honest it’s fairly clear that this is just filler for the huge battle scenes and dynamic fight sequences that allow Pitt’s magnificent physique to show what it can do.  Suffice to say that a woman is at the heart of it, and there’s going to be a lot of pushing and shoving before honour is satisfied.

No wanting to risk getting typecast, Orlando Bloom decides to take a role where he gets to shoot people with a bow and arrow inside a fortress. Ummmm...

It’s clear to see that the reason behind this film’s inclusion in the top 100 is due to its impressive and memorable battle scenes.  These feature both sweeping battlelines crashing into each other, and also intense individual duels between the various heroes on both sides.  In this at least, the makers really got into the spirit of the thing- ancient Greece truly honoured the ideal of the hero in its tales.  These at least are enjoyable for the person interested in such eye-candy, possibly the best I’ve seen.

The scene between Hector (Bana) and Achilles (Pitt) is a particularly tense one

The other elements of the film, however, are not made up for by the battle scenes.  I’m typing this review in between them, and I can’t say that I’ve missed anything that I’d normally want to concentrate upon.  The characters are cardboard, their motivations transparent and their contributions without flavour.  Brad Pitt does a good job, but ultimately Achilles comes across as a sulky teenager who spends as much time pouting as he does slaying.

Ah, the film is done now, and back on the top of my DVD pile.  That means it’s technically better than ‘Sleuth’ and ‘The Dark Knight’.  Maybe its time to invest in a rack.

4/10 because of the battles, and Alexander makes this look great.


1- Saving Private Ryan

Well then, may as well start with a good film to review to get me underway. 

The piece is set at the beginning of the greatest invasion in human history.  A massive undertaking that changed the balance of a war and turned a psychological corner on both sides.  Although the D-Day landing were still dwarfed in size by the sheer scale of the confrontation on the Eastern Front of World War 2 (where our glorious comrades already had the fascists on the back-foot), its failure could have resulted in anything.  The bulk of this film focuses in on one small group of men, and in particular on Captain Miller (Tom Hanks), from their tumultuous arrival on the beaches of Normandy through those tense early days after the beachead was made.

The D-Day landings. Saving Private Ryan starts with events at Omaha Beach

One thing about this film that stays with me as setting it slightly apart from the bulk of others is the way that the human side is handled.   By this I mean that usually the overriding plot arc places the military objective as the basis for a successful ending, and the personalities and goals of the protagonists are secondary twists to fill out characters and these can be sacrificed in order to fulfil the mission of blowing up the bridge, stealing the documents, or capturing the town.  In Saving Private Ryan, the human part is the objective, quite literally as Captain Miller is sent with a small team of the 2nd Rangers across a warzone to retrieve the last surviving son of a woman who has lost her other children to the war.  The moral question of risking the lives of several men to find and save one other is repeatedly raised, particularly as the inevitable attrition ocurrs and men who are obviously known by the Captain and his unit are killed.  I think that the way in which this is dealt with throughout the film is what keeps the audience’ attention.

As a war film, one should expect a decent review to comment on the action.  Well, there is plenty of it here- possibly one of the most famous opening scenes in film history.  Spielberg’s direction is amazing at capturing the terror and chaos of the combat.  The action, however, is not portrayed as to be enjoyed in a popcorn sense- this film makes no bones about the indiscriminate brutality and to have compromised on this would have done as great a diservice to those who actually fought in the war as it would to have shown them easily swatting aside the evil Nazis whilst cracking one-liners. 

The opening scene received praise from veterans of the beach landing for its accuracy.

Overall, this film was a critical and commercial success, and rightly so.  It comments on the value of life, even in the middle of the most brutal of conflicts.  The characters are succintly but poignantly portrayed by talent both established and new at the time, and a production team that truly new what it was doing.



I, however, AM Russia!

OK then first blog post for me, ever.  Ummm…. seems to be going well so far.  What to talk about..?

Ah yes- I’ll be reviewing the afore-mentioned list of war films.  I have no idea whether I’m a harsh critic or not, but whilst I’m reasonable for letting Hollywood modify events to make an interesting storyline, I will be looking out for blatant historical innaccuracy where I know it exists.  So you may get a little history lesson or two along the way.  That’ll be fun for you.


i am actually japan!

ok so to get this off the ground and started its actually Japan who is blogging here but Russia will take over from now on…

purpose??? watch all 100 greatest war films (as voted for by channel 4 viwers)…. this was from about 2005 so there are some recent ones missing ….

Not only am I doing this but so are
5olly – he is beer swilling ‘bring it on’ British –
Miss V – she is the deadly Japanese –
and Slinky who is the all powerful Germans –

we have started ahead of Russia but I have a feeling that he will catch up and out geek the rest of us combined…!

Channel 4 Top 100 War Films (as of 2005)
1 Saving Private Ryan 1998
2 Apocalypse Now 1979
3 Great Escape, The 1963
4 Schindler’s List 1993
5 Full Metal Jacket 1987
6 Platoon 1986
7 Bridge Too Far, A 1977
8 Zulu 1964
9 Black Hawk Down 2001
10 Bridge On The River Kwai, The 1957
11 Dam Busters, The 1954
12 Deer Hunter, The 1978
13 Braveheart 1995
14 Guns Of Navarone, The 1961
15 Killing Fields, The 1984
16 Thin Red Line, The 1998
17 Das Boot 1981
18 Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb 1964
19 Born On The Fourth Of July 1989
20 Longest Day, The 1962
21 Where Eagles Dare 1968
22 M*A*S*H 1970
23 Paths Of Glory 1957
24 Gladiator 2000
25 Spartacus 1960
26 Ice-Cold In Alex 1958
27 Dirty Dozen, The 1967
28 Enemy At The Gates 2001
29 Battle Of Britain 1969
30 Casablanca 1942
31 Good Morning, Vietnam 1987
32 Pianist, The 2002
33 All Quiet On The Western Front 1930
34 Kelly’s Heroes 1970
35 Last Of The Mohicans, The 1992
36 Henry V 1944
37 Cross Of Iron 1977
38 Salvador 1986
39 Tora! Tora! Tora! 1970
40 Lawrence Of Arabia 1962
41 Cruel Sea, The 1953
42 Catch-22 1970
43 Empire Of The Sun 1987
44 Patton 1970
45 633 Squadron 1964
46 Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World 2003
47 Matter Of Life And Death, A 1946
48 Gallipoli 1981
49 Carve Her Name With Pride 1958
50 Three Kings 1999
51 Town Like Alice, A 1956
52 Hope And Glory 1987
53 Troy 2004
54 From Here To Eternity 1953
55 Casualties Of War 1989
56 Life Is Beautiful 1998
57 In Which We Serve 1942
58 Stalingrad 1993
59 Reach For The Sky 1956
60 English Patient, The 1996
61 Grande Illusion, La 1937
62 Ran 1985
63 When The Wind Blows 1986
64 Battle Of Algiers, The 1965
65 General, The 1927
66 Enigma 2001
67 NapoléOn 1927
68 Glory 1989
69 Went The Day Well? 1942
70 Oh! What A Lovely War 1969
71 Come And See 1985
72 Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The 1943
73 Ride With The Devil 1999
74 Alexander Nevsky 1938
75 Gone With The Wind 1939
76 Sands Of Iwo Jima 1949
77 Charge Of The Light Brigade, The 1936
78 Breaker Morant 1980
79 Mrs. Miniver 1942
80 Land And Freedom 1995
81 Love And Death 1975
82 No Man’s Land 2001
83 Cromwell 1970
84 Caine Mutiny, The 1954
85 To Be Or Not To Be 1942
86 El Cid 1961
87 Rome, Open City 1945
88 Memphis Belle 1990
89 Von Ryan’s Express 1965
90 Regeneration 1997
91 Hell In The Pacific 1968
92 Birth Of A Nation, The 1915
93 Europa Europa 1990
94 Colditz Story, The 1955
95 Welcome To Sarajevo 1997
96 Cold Mountain 2003
97 Lacombe Lucien 1974
98 Big Red One, The 1980
99 Eagle Has Landed, The 1976
100 Rambo: First Blood Part II 1985