May 182017
 
Wooden Crosses

Rating: ★★★½☆
An unblinking portrayal of the lives of a unit of French infantrymen, the movie is not depressing, just grim There is little sense of how much time has passed. Instead, the soldiers try to survive an endless cycle of tours on the front, rest periods behind the lines and far too rare periods of leave. Unsurprisingly for a war film, death is a constant presence in the film, which starts with a dissolve from soldiers on parade to an endless field of wooden crosses, and ends with a scene of dead soldiers marching into the sky, each holding a wooden cross. Read More…

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Mar 022017
 
Legends of the Fall

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Legends of the Fall was a passion project for director Edward Zwick, since he loved the book and even gave it as a gift to friends. Sadly, none of that passion made it onto the screen, instead it is painful and boring. Zwick has made many good films, but this is not one of them. Set during WWI and Prohibition, the film is primarily a romance, so the two battle scenes on the Western Front are brief. Read More…

Nov 032016
 
Paths of Glory

Rating: ★★★★☆
Following a failed attack on a German position, three French soldiers are chosen by lot to be executed for cowardice and are defended by their commanding officer in a court-martial. Although the film is famous for the court trial, the chilling attack on the German trenches is one of the best I have seen in a WWI film. Director Stanley Kubrick was a photographer, so he carefully researched photos from WWI to ensure that the battlefield and trenches appeared realistic. In fact, many scenes look like an old photo coming to life. A harsh portrayal of the cost of scheming among the high command on ordinary soldiers, Paths of Glory is one of the best movies on WWI. Read More…

Sep 032015
 
Gallipoli

Rating: ★★★★☆
Gallipoli is actually two movies: a buddy movie that takes place in Australia during the early months of WWI, and the Gallipoli Offensive, which was too complex to be explained in the last third of the film. Examining the loss of innocence in Australia during WWI, Gallipoli is not a movie with beautifully choreographed battles or gritty action scenes, just a brutal look at men sent to die far from their homes in a pointless campaign. Read More…

Jul 172014
 
Beneath Hill 60

Rating: ★★★★☆
Beneath Hill 60 examines the war under No Man’s Land, which was fought by thousands of German and Allied (mostly British, Canadian and Australian) miners, who had only received a few weeks of military training. This is not a film for claustrophobes. The director understands that battling face-to-face in the dark, far under the ground, is a primal fear, therefore it is always hot, sweaty and badly lit in the labyrinth of tunnels. In fact, the miners’ war was a struggle to stay sane, not to win the war. An excellent film that examines a little-known part of WWI, Beneath Hill 60 deserves to be seen by more people. Read More…

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Jul 102014
 
Aces High

Rating: ★★★½☆
Late in WWI, a burnt-out squadron commander in the Royal Flying Corps finds out that his newest pilot is his girlfriend’s brother. The new recruit soon discovers that the reality of aerial combat is far from the chivalry he had imagined, and the odds of his survival are almost non-existent. The pilots drink every night to cope with their fears, and the commander can not get into his plane unless he has had several drinks first. The portrayal of burnt-out pilots hiding their terror beneath endless carousing is not new, but it is all put together brilliantly with stunning aerial scenes. Read More…

Jun 262014
 
Flyboys

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Flyboys gets most of the facts right, so viewers will actually learn a little about the war. However, the movie is not about the real Lafayette Escadrille, it is just a generic WWI aviation film that happens to feature Americans fighting for France. The film is gorgeous, and the producers clearly loved flying, but the amazing aerial footage is not matched by the cliché-ridden screenplay. Read More…

Jun 122014
 
The Trench

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
In the summer of 1916, the British army prepared for the Somme Offensive, the biggest offensive of the war. While hundreds of thousands of soldiers massed in the rear, a small force was left to hold the trenches. The movie examines the experiences of one platoon over two days before the start of the offensive. The Trench shows that the Battle of the Somme was a disaster, but the script only touches on some of the reasons, as if it was more concerned with paying tribute to the soldiers than actually explaining why it was such a disaster. Filled with bland characters, I actually found myself wishing for nice stereotypes like a troublemaker, an intellectual and a ladies man, maybe an immigrant or ethnic minority. The director’s desire to create a snapshot of the period right before the Somme Offensive is laudable but the film is boring, just boring. Read More…

Mar 132014
 
Dishonored

Rating: ★★★½☆
A widow recruited to spy for the Austro-Hungarian Empire against the Russians during WWI proves to be a skilled secret agent but her mission is complicated when she falls in love with a Russian spy. Dishonored is not the most historically accurate movie but it is worth watching. Aside from Marlene Dietrich basically being Marlene Dietrich, director Josef Von Stemberg lets scenes move at their own pace. Given the recent wave of modern blockbusters that seem to be composed of a relentless barrage of action set-pieces apparently modelled on rollercoaster rides, it is a nice change of pace to just relax and soak up the atmosphere. Read More…

Dec 192013
 
Forty Thousand Horsemen

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Forty Thousand Horsemen, the story of the Australia Light Horse during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in WWI is wartime propaganda, but even so, it is excessive. The movie consists of fun-loving Australians taking advantage of local natives who are not too bright, and riding across endless stretches of desert to fight Turks who are actually decent but are ruled by tyrannical German warlords, while Waltzing Matilda is played repeatedly. Told through the viewpoint of the soldiers, the viewer will learn little about the war itself. The climatic charge is adequate, but does not compare to the charge in The Lighthorsemen (1987). In fact, there is no reason to watch this movie, unless you are a completist like me. Everyone else should spare themselves the boredom and watch The Lighthorsemen. Read More…

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Dec 122013
 
The Lost Battalion

Near the end of WWI, an American battalion is cut off from the rest of the division while fighting in the Argonne Forest. Surrounded by Germans, the battalion is soon described by the press as the Lost Battalion, and no one expects it survive long enough to be relieved. Unfortunately, the movie seems to have been filmed inside a municipal park on a sunny day, even though the real battalion had literally disappeared into a dark, dense forest that was an untamed remnant of earlier times. While it is relatively accurate, The Lost Battalion transforms a story of brave soldiers struggling to survive into a morality tale where the men are sacrificed by an ambitious general, but still manage to turn the tide of the war. Read More…

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Nov 072013
 
Lafayette Escadrille

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
Thad Walker (Tab Hunter), a troubled young American enlists in the Lafayette Escadrile, a squadron of volunteer American fighter pilots who fought for France during WWI. Director William Wellman had been given a smaller budget than he had wanted, so the only aerial combat takes place in the last five minutes. Instead, the movie focuses on the depressingly dull romance between Walker, a fugitive from justice with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, and Renee Beaulieu (Etchika Choureau), a reformed prostitute. A weird mash-up of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and the Andy Hardy movies, I kept expecting Mickey Rooney to show up and say “hey guys, let’s put on a show.” The dream project of Wellman, who had actually flown with the Lafayette Corps during the war, studio interference ruined the film. Incensed by the changes forced onto the final version, Wellman had his name removed as producer. Read More…

Oct 312013
 
The Eagle and the Hawk

Rating: ★★★½☆
Three Americans, Jerry Young (Fredric March), Mike ‘Slug’ Richards (Jack Oakie) and Henry Crocker (Cary Grant), join the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. Piloting a two-seater plane, Young quickly becomes an ace but loses five tail-gunners in two months. The guilt caused by the deaths of so many men causes him to gradually crack. The film is a brutal look at the consequences of turning innocent young men into killers. Although it has been described as anti-war, a better description would be that it is against the glorification of war. Unavailable until recently, few people have heard of The Eagle and the Hawk, but it is worth watching. The action scenes are excellent, it deals with complex issues that were only starting to be addressed openly, and the ending is dark, unexpectedly dark. Read More…

Dec 312012
 
T. E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence (August 16, 1888-May 19, 1935) became famous for his role in the Arab Revolt during WWI. Having worked as an archeologist in Syria, his fluency in Arabic and familiarity with the Middle East ensured that he was assigned to the Intelligence Staff of the British Army in Egypt after the Ottoman Empire entered the war. Serving as a liaison between the British government and Arab tribes fighting a guerrilla war against the Ottoman Empire, he gained the trust of Prince Feisal, son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Unable to face the Ottoman army in open battle, the Arab guerrillas focused on derailing trains on the main railway line. A devoted believer in the cause of Arab independence, Lawrence served as interpreter for Prince Feisal during the Versailles Peace Conference where the Arab delegation failed to win full independence. However, Lawrence became famous when the book Lawrence of Arabia by American journalist Lowell Thomas became a best-seller. Furthermore, military historian Basil Liddell Hart greatly admired Lawrence and wrote that he had revolutionized guerrilla tactics. Uncomfortable with fame, Lawrence enlisted in the R. A. F. under an assumed name, and then transferred to the Tank Corps when he was discovered. Lawrence died in a motorcycle accident in 1935.
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Dec 172012
 
Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur (January 26, 1880-April 5, 1964) was a controversial American general. The son of a famous general, MacArthur was driven by a limitless ambition. Displaying suicidal bravery and remarkable leadership ability, he became a brigadier general during WWI. Continuing to rise, MacArthur became chief of staff in 1930, but was publicly criticized following the brutal eviction of the Bonus Marchers, WWI veterans camped out in Washington. Denied a second term as chief of staff, it seemed that his career was over and he retired from the U.S. Army in 1937. When war with Japan seemed inevitable, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active duty in July 1941 and gave him command of the Philippines. Taken by surprise by the speed of the Japanese invasion in late December 1941, MacArthur was evacuated to Australia where he oversaw the island-hopping campaign and eventual recapture of the Philippines. Following the Japanese surrender, MacArthur was appointed American viceroy, and implemented sweeping changes in Japanese society, economy and politics. Taking command of the American response when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, an amphibious landing at Inchon ensured victory, but he permitted American forces to approach the border with China, which provoked a massive Chinese intervention. After repeatedly defying President Harry Truman, he was relieved of command in 1951. Failing to win the Republican nomination for president, MacArthur suffered the humiliation of seeing his former aide, Dwight Eisenhower, become president. Retreating from public life, MacArthur died on April 5, 1964 due to kidney and liver failure. Read More…

Nov 292012
 
Hell's Angels

Rating: ★★★½☆
Set in WWI, it is a surprisingly dark story, where the love interest is a bad girl who has no interest in becoming a good girl, and the never-do-well brother can not be redeemed. The superb technical accomplishments more than compensate for the unbearable overacting, including a minute-long death scene for one of the brothers. The mix of directors and the haphazard transfer from silent to sound resulted in a strange movie, but a very good strange movie that is worth watching.
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Nov 222012
 
War Horse

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Albert Narracott bonds with the thoroughbred horse bought by his father to serve as the family’s plow horse for their farm. Albert is heartbroken when his father sells the horse to a British cavalry captain at the beginning of WWI, and eventually enlists in order to be reunited with his friend. Although it is primarily a movie about a horse and his human, there are several superb battlefield scenes. Unfortunately, there is also far too much melodrama.
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Jan 302012
 
J. Edgar

Rating: ★★½☆☆

J. Edgar is a touching movie about gay lovers when the idea of gay rights did not exist, but the love story takes precedence over the story of a paranoid, narrow-minded bureaucrat who believed that his own patriotism was the ideal and anyone who did not meet his standards was a threat to the nation. Read More…