Walsh now moved to Paramount , where his projects ran exactly contrary to his strengths. The mystery-comedy Big Brown Eyes had rising stars Cary Grant and Bennett as a detective and a reporter, respectively, going after a gang of jewel thieves. Walsh now took the unusual step of traveling to England in to make his next two pictures for British companies, the service comedy O.
Walsh had made 22 films thus far in the s, but none equaled his last of the decade. Walsh turned out a crisp mini-epic spanning 15 years in the life of a gangster James Cagney at the top of his form who is forced into racketeering in order to survive after World War I and then develops a taste for it.
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With High Sierra Walsh enjoyed a breakthrough, as did star Bogart, who had the lucky chance of both Paul Muni and Raft turning down the part of Mad Dog Earle, a sensitive robber sprung from prison to pull off a big heist. High Sierra is considered a classic, thanks in part to the script by John Huston , the spectacular location photography of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the fine supporting performance of Lupino as Marie, a dance-hall girl who truly understands Earle.
The romantic comedy The Strawberry Blonde was lighter fare, but again Walsh had a top cast—Cagney, Olivia de Havilland , and Rita Hayworth —and their ensemble work helped make this a box-office hit. Manpower pitted two power-company workers Edward G. Desperate Journey was a tale of five Allied pilots Ronald Reagan among them who are shot down over Germany and try to make their way back to England. Then it was Flynn again with more patriotic derring-do in Northern Pursuit , as a Mountie going undercover in a ring of Nazi saboteurs.
Walsh and Flynn reteamed for Uncertain Glory , in which a French criminal must make the supreme sacrifice to save hostages held by the Nazis. Their next collaboration, Objective, Burma! The Horn Blows at Midnight was not as successful at the box office, but this oddball fantasy at least was original; Benny played a trumpet player who falls asleep and dreams he is an angel sent to destroy the world by blowing on the Last Trumpet.
Walsh then made The Man I Love , a vehicle for Lupino, who played a feisty nightclub singer harassed by a gangster boss Robert Alda. Cheyenne was a less-adventurous western with Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyman. But it was White Heat that showed Walsh once more at the peak of his powers; Cagney had one of his greatest roles as Cody Jarrett, a psychopathic yet pathetically tortured killer. Walsh shot Along the Great Divide , a conventional western strengthened by some good location photography, with Kirk Douglas as a U. Walsh had one of his biggest hits with Captain Horatio Hornblower R. Forester novels, which starred Gregory Peck as the British naval commander who conquers all during the Napoleonic Wars.
Distant Drums recycled the story structure from Objective, Burma! Now a freelancer, Walsh made his next seven films at five different studios. The World in His Arms sent Peck back to sea, this time in as the captain of a sealing schooner romancing a runaway Russian countess Ann Blyth. Walsh moved another century back in time for Blackbeard, the Pirate , with Robert Newton tendering a ripe performance as the title character. Although the thinly disguised Huey Long drama A Lion Is in the Streets did not deliver on its promise, it offered mesmerizing performances by Cagney as the demagogue and Anne Francis as the temptress Flamingo McManamee.
Gun Fury also was originally shot in 3-D , but even without that novelty, its story of a cowboy Hudson tracking down the gang that kidnapped his bride-to-be Donna Reed , complemented by stunning Arizona location photography, made this more than an ordinary western.
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Saskatchewan permitted Walsh to explore the topography of the Canadian Rockies , with Ladd as a Mountie who tries to keep the Sioux and Cree from an uprising. Battle Cry was an ode to the marines of World War II that remained as faithful as was then possible under the Production Code to the epic novel by Leon Uris who also wrote the screenplay.
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The King and Four Queens was a mediocre western with Gable as a con man trying to swindle a rancher Jo Van Fleet and her four daughters-in-law out of a fortune in stolen gold. Walsh was able to partially redeem these disappointments with A Distant Trumpet , a rather familiar tale of cavalry battling Indians in Arizona.
If even potentially offensive filmmaking can still be art, then Zulu must be a minor Brit masterpiece. Land and Freedom Director: Ken Loach. Movies about the American Civil War and Russian revolution abound, but precious few have been made about the Spanish Civil War, a precursor conflict to WWII in which almost half a million were killed in little over two years. The Marxist POUM militia face enemies not just from the right, but from the left and center, from rifle-wielding village priests eager to maintain the status quo and Stalinists determined to crush any socialist factions they consider hostile to the Soviet cause.
The flip side to The Longest Day , A Bridge too Far is the story of how the Allies bet big on winning the war by Christmas, , and subsequently left thousands killed, wounded or captured across the Netherlands. Red Cliff Director: John Woo. There are earth-scorching battles on a massive scale, endless naval armadas crowding the Yangtze River, labyrinthine military strategies, intricate tea ceremonies and a cast large enough to make Robert Altman sweat. Gibson is certainly not shy in showing what happens when soldiers take an axe to the gourd.
Fixed Bayonets! Until he was given something approaching a sizable budget for The Big Red One in , WWII vet Samuel Fuller was forced to tell his war stories with little funding on the tiniest of canvases. Whatever missteps the film makes, Casualties is still overwhelmingly, unshakably shocking. Actor Robert Montgomery, an officer in the U. Such direct experience makes for a film about the war at sea that was about as realistic as one could get from Hollywood in The combat scenes are spectacular, propulsive sea battles shot out in the waters of the Florida Keys, but Ford has more time for exploring the psyches of his characters.
As his lieutenant delivers a eulogy for a fallen comrade, even John Wayne proves himself capable of some real emotional heavy lifting. And so a filmmaker so closely associated with American stories made one of the great Japanese war movies, closer to meditative Japanese cinema than to his own usual style, and near entrancing in its depiction of soldiers ritualistically preparing for an invasion they know will end in their deaths. The Sun Director: Aleksandr Sokurov. Until then, we only hear bombs falling outside the fortified palace where Hirohito writes poetry, conducts scientific research and ponders out loud why he was urged to back a likely unwinnable war in the first place.
In one scene, U.
The soon-to-be abdicated Emperor, child-like, responds to requests for poses by putting on a Chaplin-esque show. The former is a story of the soldier in victory, with the scrappy July 26th Movement winning clashes against government forces, while the latter—originally a Terrence Malick project—is a treatise on death, a grim tale of idealism broken on the dusty slopes of Bolivia, as Guevara and an ever-dwindling band of combatants are picked off by CIA-backed anti-insurgency troops.
The waiting is what the film emphasizes: the long, dull moments that come in between the action sequences most war movies savor.
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Mann does not delve too deeply into the tangled politics of this particular American war, instead focusing on the general antagonism felt by American Indians towards white colonists—whether French or British, Europeans scrap for land that never belonged to them in the first place—and their perpetual thirst for conflict.
It has realistically clumsy action and painterly scenery, but a major part of the appeal of Devil is that it takes a complicated view of a mythologized war and its combatants. Lebanon Director: Samuel Maoz. Maoz makes the Das Boot of tank movies, a sweaty, intensely claustrophobic film where the viewer hunches inside a creaking war machine for almost the entire run time. We, like the inhabitants of the tank, see outside the vehicle only via its gunsight. From their perspective, war is hell through a periscope lens, both frightening and unfathomable. Inglourious Basterds Director: Quentin Tarantino.
What perversity, to make a war film all about people waiting for a chance to fight in a war and never getting a chance to actually do it. That perhaps makes this film more conceptually interesting than compelling to actually watch; nevertheless, there is a thematic and structural integrity to this film that is admirable in the abstract. Overlord Director: Stuart Cooper. How can something so meager possess such power? Bolstering the fiction filmmaking with documentary footage achieves some mesmerizing effect here—rather than cheapen the film by highlighting its budgetary shortcomings, the decision to include archival material retains a vital tie to the past.
The film basically plays one sustained note about the death of innocence, but Cooper chooses the perfect chord. Air Force Director: Howard Hawks. What sets Air Force apart and keeps it vital is the way it keenly puts the viewer in the place of a U. Once in the air, instead of a score we hear the constant hum of the flight, and the mundane, repetitive exchanges of the crew.
The point for audiences at the time was supposed to be that the U. Sergeant York Director: Howard Hawks. York is a masterpiece, a parable about a sticks sharpshooter dead set against slaughter: how a poor Tennessee farmer found marriage, religion, and a cause, in that order. In its own way, York tells us what soldiers have always known: the war is also fought within, as well as without. If so many of the glut of war movies made in the post-war period have failed to stand the test of time, it could be that the unrealistic moral monochromia and lack of psychological insight of many ring false in a world that views complexity as a given in its war movies.
Made at a time when John Wayne was still storming beaches with his uniformly loyal and capable grunts, Attack! Most movies get made because their creators wanted to make them. Then there are movies such as City of Life and Death , which one feels simply had to be made—for education, for posterity, for mere perspective. Lu begins with muscular battle scenes, then moves on to unflinching misery as occupation begins, with machine gun execution by the thousands, live burials, death by rape—human annihilation. Glory Director: Edward Zwick. Matthew Broderick may appear in the lead as Col.
Trip , Morgan Freeman Sgt. John Rawlins , Andre Braugher Cpl. Thomas Searles and Jhimi Kennedy Pvt. Jupiter Sharts. These actors deliver incredible performances as members of the first all-black regiment in the Union army, during the Civil War, with Washington going on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Instead of focusing on the obvious North vs. Navy during the Vietnam War, shot down over Laos then captured and tortured for months before escaping. When Zack shoots a prisoner in cold blood, this earned Fuller the ire of the military brass.
I fought a war. Things like that happen! And you know it! Stalag 17 Director: Billy Wilder. In comparison with a film like The Great Escape , which would later come along and tell a story ringing with many of the same tropes, albeit without the screwball sense of humor, Stalag 17 is both an escape story and a light mystery, centered around the identity of the German informant who is sabotaging each attempt by the Americans to flee the camp and defy the Germans.
With a cast of colorful characters and good-natured humor, Stalag 17 somehow takes a horrific premise and mines it for laughs more successfully than one would have thought possible.
Journey to Glory
Gallipoli Director: Peter Weir. Director Peter Weir has always been a master heartstring-puller; whatever his subject matter, he takes a very emotion-forward approach. That said, please understand that Gallipoli will not tug at your heart: It will flat out break it. A group of young men from rural Australia enlist in the Army during WWI and are sent to the Gallipoli peninsula in present-day Turkey to participate in the campaign that culminates in the tragic Battle of the Nek in This is a story about idealistic young men-primarily Archie Hamilton Mike Lee and Frank Dunne Mel Gibson losing their innocence about the real meanings and purposes of war.
In this film that emotional investment cruelly underlines the devastation of war. All the while, the more interesting rivalry is happening within the American sub, where Richardson has to contend with his ambitious younger XO Bledsoe Burt Lancaster , in a reflection of the very real discord between fading star Gable and Lancaster.
Off-screen struggle proved grimly advantageous: Gable, then a chronic alcoholic, delivers a suitably exhausted performance as the obsessed Richardson, while the clash of egos between Gable and Lancaster seeps into the power balance enmity between their characters. Hell in the Pacific Director: John Boorman. Amidst the borderline schlocky battle scenes and Middle-Eastern politics, Scott and screenwriter William Monahan ask big questions about faith, class and destiny that somehow strongly resonate some plus years on from when their story takes place.
While it dawns on the two half-cocked nomads just what kind of horror has engulfed the country and to what extent the U. And still, Boyle wanders the increasingly war-scarred country, like Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal , finding nothing but pain and violence bereft of meaning, but committed to a duty: to capture what was going on, or simply to satisfy the same degree of American-bred ego that Stone was condemning in trying to witness such atrocities at all.
Those conflagrations are the result of a conflict between government and revolutionary forces, the specifics of which the film, like its precise locale, leaves more or less vague. For the French-speaking portion of the film, there is an espionage mini-thriller and a thunderous Commando assault on a seaside town. And for the German-speaking segments, a surprisingly even-handed and occasionally even lighthearted portrayal of ill-prepared officers, out-of-their-depth Luftwaffe and the ordinary soldiers who from that point on would be forever in retreat.
Kanal Director: Andrzej Wajda. Aware of their slim chances of survival with the German army tightening its grip all the time, the remaining men and women of Lt. But the confusion and strange terror down there, in the foul winding tunnels of an underground maze of waste, make them a pitiful few last hours.
Based on the true story of one escalating firefight—that which emerged when the American plan to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in went awry— Black Hawk Down allows Scott to focus in beautifully rendered detail on what happens when the cold, regimented modern military machine of the West meets a multitudinous foreign enemy on home turf. In this film, the schoolboys of a rural Bavarian town curse school, interact awkwardly with girls, learn from inspiring teachers, and fantasize about killing for the Fatherland. The Guns of Navarone Director: J. Lee Thompson.
Guess what? The Train Director: John Frankenheimer. Men in War Director: Anthony Mann. Men in War is a peculiar amalgam: part action movie, part psychological thriller and part existential odyssey. Benson Robert Ryan and his platoon make to take a hill deep in North Korean territory. MASH is a still-effective example of a film that finds humor in some of the least expected places, making us laugh in order to not cry. Battleground Director: William Wellman. Plenty of WWII films made during the war and in the immediate post-war period were, if not nakedly propagandistic, then at least psychologically simplistic, artificial and lopsidedly patriotic.
The equipment and uniforms look worn. There are no major stars to confuse the audience into thinking that any of the characters are individually heroic or special. In this movie, hot food is the real victory, and a man is as likely to be killed reaching for his boots in a firefight as he is making a glorious run against the enemy. The pointlessness of man murdering his fellow man is noted in a whimper of a finale, a melancholic stroke that caps off one of the more entertaining men-on-a-mission movies. The Dam Busters belongs to a class of British film that no longer exists—straitlaced yet charming, formal yet with bursts of cinematic invention, epic in scope yet intimately felt.
The Ascent Director: Larisa Shepitko. Down to the bones, it moves and enraptures. The kind of movie that lazy weekends are made of, Where Eagles Dare -concerning a crack team of Allied troops, disguised as German soldiers and tasked with rescuing a U. Schaffer mows through a ceaseless line of Nazis with a pair of submachine guns. Waltz with Bashir Director: Ari Folman. Downfall Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Black Book Director: Paul Verhoeven. Leave it to Paul Verhoeven to puncture standard good-versus-evil sanctimonies during wartime, and to do it in as vulgar and trashy a manner as possible.
Not that his epic Black Book is another Showgirls. With its irreverent tone and populist idiom, this would have fit quite nicely in mainstream U. Underneath its unabashedly crowd-pleasing surface, however, is a dark vision of the moral complexities World War II brought out on both sides. It has the eye for detail and human drama of a former journalist; the tough economy of an ex-pulp novelist; the casual ingenuity and resourcefulness of a B filmmaker of more than 30 years; and the been-there verisimilitude of a decorated WWII veteran.
William James Jeremy Renner , a devil-may-care maverick who not only has a knack for disarming bombs, but loves doing it to a reckless degree. When, in its quiet epilogue, James finds himself immediately bored by suburban life and itches to return to the adrenalized theater of war, after nearly two hours of relentless nerve-wracking tension, we in the audience feel the same sense of stagnation he does. In The Hurt Locker , Bigelow makes us understand that perspective in the most visceral way possible, to truly revelatory effect. It was the most unusual of creative marriages: Steven Spielberg , then best known as a director of family fare, and J.
Ballard, controversial author of macabre social horror novels. Absent judgmental parents and teachers, prison is a place for an imaginative young boy to run wild. Sneaking into the neighboring Japanese airfield is a game of hide and seek, while the flash of the atomic bomb is the soul of a fellow prisoner ascending up to heaven.
This band of POWs work together as a film ensemble as well as they work together to execute their impossible escape-each character bringing a different skill set and a different viewpoint to an effort that can only succeed if they all accept their differences and work together. Despite its laconic pacing in the first half which one could argue is a thematic underscoring of the frustrating and frightening suspension of being a POW, only diffused and channeled into action when they see a potential path to freedom , it remains a masterpiece of the action genre.
It was also the film that put Steve McQueen on the map.
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