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WW2 - World War II
#1
There are lots of World War II movies... so, why not a dedicated thread for them? First, a few recaps (see quote links for full reviews):
 
(05-19-2015, 10:43 PM)Gaith Wrote: Fury (2014)
 
 
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Seriously legit tank epic - unlike The Hurt Locker, it has more than one interesting character, and unlike Saving Private Ryan, it doesn't center around a silly (entirely made up) main plot. The whole cast is great, including Peña and LaBeouf and 'the girl' (man, is she pretty), but the most props go to Pitt. The third act is a bit over the top and absurd, but I didn't really mind. A-
 
(04-07-2017, 08:28 PM)Gaith Wrote: Five Came Back (2017)

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Excellent three-hour warts-and-all Netflix doc on the WW2 military service and filmmaking of John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens, based on the recent acclaimed Mark Harris book. Spielberg, Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, and Lawrence Kasdan appear as talking heads, as do the directors in archival footage. Very high quality clips of the films themselves throughout. Nothing hugely surprising, but a great watch for history and movie buffs. And just about anyone, really. A
 
(03-05-2017, 03:11 AM)Gaith Wrote: Anthropoid (2016)

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Very good flick, with first-rate action editing. The battle at the end is lengthy, harrowing, and altogether riveting. Apparently the actor who (very briefly) plays Heydrich previously played him in the 2011 Czech drama film Lidice. Also, I've seen HBO's Conspiracy (also on Amazon Prime) twice, but only now realized that Kenneth Branagh's role in that movie is Heydrich - but then, I never particularly knew who Heydrich was until I started on Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, which portrays him living into the series' 1960s "present." B+
 
(08-20-2017, 07:07 PM)Gaith Wrote: Enigma (2001)

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2014's The Imitation Game tried to pay movie tribute to Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing, but grossly distorted his personality, greatly exaggerated his importance*, made him look like an idiot** and a possible murderer***, and literally portrayed him committing treason. The 2001 film Enigma, on the other hand, doesn't reference Turing at all (apparently the source novel mentions that by the time the story is set, in '43, he was on his real-life trip to America), and kinda conflates its fictional straight protagonist with the real-life figure. Obviously, then, neither of these films do Turing justice, but in sheer overall historical terms, despite being a fictional thriller, I think Enigma gives a much better and more complex picture of Bletchley Park operations, and has a far greater respect for its audience overall. (If you don't know what the Katyn Massacre was, chances are you'll get fairly confused.) A-
 
(11-17-2017, 06:28 PM)Gaith Wrote: The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

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A fun war romp, somewhat let down by an absurd old-school sexist subplot. Possible quibble: one character posits that kidnapping Churchill won't win the war, but could help bargain for a better peace - but were top German officers so sure of defeat in the fall of '43, more than half a year before D-Day? I'm no expert, but it doesn't strike me as likely. Still, it's solid, classic action fare with strong perfs and realistic, easily followed battle tactics. B+
 
(02-10-2011, 05:09 AM)Gaith Wrote: Atonement (2007)

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A great film.  The appropriateness of the title is wonderfully debatable  and  thought-provoking. The story is indeed silly (an absurd amount of   disasters happening in the span of a single day, really), but it's a grandiose sort of silly, and in that respect is not entirely unlike the similarly dream-like Apocalypse Now.   Moreover, in being bravely-directed enough to take itself absolutely seriously, it reaches an operatic magnificence that more benignly believable tales hardly ever reach, or even aspire to. We humans need an occasional full-on myth, and this is just such a work. Also, retroactive recognition for Benedict Cumberbatch! A
 
(07-30-2017, 07:14 PM)Gaith Wrote: 36 Hours (1965)

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There's a good review I mostly agree with here. We're shown the full gambit from the beginning, so instead of being in protagonist James Garner's shoes, wondering why something just doesn't feel right, we're waiting for him to catch on. But while the last third is low-key in an charming, old-timey way, the main interest is the largely sympathetic rapport between Major Pike and his German captor. [...] An early, pioneering screen example of the Faked Rip Van Winkle ploy, used numerous times in Mission: Impossible as well as TNG ("Future Imperfect") and Enterprise ("Stratagem"). I was expecting, and would have enjoyed, a more tense third act. B
 
(04-29-2015, 04:05 PM)Gaith Wrote: The Imitation Game (2014)

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Boy, was [TM2YC] not kidding about the shitty writing! Some American a-hole won an Oscar for this crap? Jesus Christo. The gags about Turing not grokking jokes and figures of speech were beyond trite, Knightley was woefully miscast in a misconceived part, and, no disrespect to people whose autism really does make them deeply awkward and socially challenged, Cumberbatch's historically unfounded Rain Man routine was just painful to watch. And though I can see people disagreeing with me on this point, I would have really appreciated some Beautiful Mind-style visual interpretations of Turing's mathematical thought process. (I really liked said surreal touches in The Fifth Estate, an underrated and much better film with a much better Cumberbatch performance.) D+
 
(09-06-2017, 03:27 PM)Gaith Wrote: Their Finest (2017)

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I wanted to love this one, but only liked it. The central romance was undercooked, with an unnecessary love triangle to boot, and the peripheral characters didn't get enough to do. Maybe a miniseries would have been a better fit, allowing the filmmaking and other plotlines more room to breathe. Definitely worth a watch, and Arterton is great, but a classic it ain't. B
 
(11-22-2017, 04:23 PM)Gaith Wrote: The Train (1964)

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A great film. Very loosely based on a true story, it's said to be the last major B&W adventure movie of its time. Lancaster is about the manliest damn man hero I've ever seen, and, somewhat amusingly, like Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, this Yank is Not Even Bothering With the Accent. Anyhow, the cinematography is stunning, glorious grayscale, and the story is gripping, and full of awesome period/accurate detail of rail switches being thrown, locomotive oil lines sabotaged, and repairs and replacement parts made in a hurry, even if a mid-movie elaborate subterfuge isn't quite credible. Paul Scofield makes for a terrifying Nazi villain; alas, this movie's production apparently soured him on film acting, though he did have a few more film roles. A must-see that blows George Clooney's similarly themed (and not terrible, just thoroughly mediocre) The Monuments Men out of the water. A
 
(07-26-2015, 12:53 AM)Gaith Wrote: The Monuments Men (2014)

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A very oddly scripted movie. For instance: a bunch of older dudes are  assembled into a special WWII Army unit, and get wildly different ranks.  Now, I'm in the actual Navy now, but even so, I have very little idea why who got what rank. Prior service, maybe? Had any of them been in  WWI? The movie doesn't say. And the actors are so recognizable and the  characters so thinly sketched that you never see them as characters,  it's just Clooney and Damon and Co. jaunting around Europe. That  said, it was a pleasant, low-key watch, and I don't regret its existence, or having seen it. It struck me as a popcorn movie for  geezers, much like this year's WWII-themed Woman in Gold, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. B-
 
(08-07-2017, 06:27 PM)Gaith Wrote: Dunkirk (2017)

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As fraught as the Dunkirk evacuation was, it seems to me (and I'm no expert on it) that despite the odds, it went pretty smoothly over the course of nearly a week. This naturally lends itself to meditative tone, such as the bravura single-shot sequence of Atonement, but not so much one of Nolan's mind-screw puzzle-plots - so he cheats, somewhat, by throwing the whole thing in a blender. [...] The movie is too gripping and skillfully made for me to dismiss it, but I'd definitely like to see a more epic, comprehensive take on the matter (with fewer brain-dead morons that think a steel tugboat cares about one more or less human sitting in its hull), one that takes us from the strategy rooms to the groups of those gross, cootie-filled women that Nolan's evidently so repelled by. (Aaron Sorkin plus Ridley Scott, maybe?) And I, too, am interested as to how a chronological cut might play. Would it look comically small-scale? B+
 
(01-01-2018, 04:14 AM)Gaith Wrote: Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr (2017)

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A riveting, challenging story that may just send you to the library in search of Gunther's eleven other adventures. My only quibble is that Kerr might have eased up a bit on Gunther's constant internal quipping in the final third, when the action reaches its peak. Outside of Sherlock Holmes, I've never been a reader of detective stories, but this novel might change that. A-
 
(10-01-2017, 02:53 PM)Gaith Wrote: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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A terrific film about a truly great American. I much preferred it to Saving Private Ryan, which, apart from its Normandy sequence, is fairly naff, IMO. Worth noting that director Mel Gibson actually omitted what was arguably Doss' most dramatic act of self-sacrifice, leading to his lifelong injuries - I'd object, but then, I suspect Doss himself would have approved! A-
 
(08-07-2017, 05:50 PM)Gaith Wrote: Allied (2016)

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I really enjoyed this throwback WW2 romance/spy thriller from Robert Zemeckis. It takes its time getting to the plot swerve about halfway through, which the previews gave away, but I didn't see coming. Anyhow, I don't have a whole lot to say about it, other than that it's solid old-school filmmaking with a few modern touches, looks great, and is an engaging, compelling ride. Pitt wasting Naht-zees never gets old. B+
 
(05-03-2017, 06:30 PM)Gaith Wrote: Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004)

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Exactly What it Says on the Tin - a solid, competently made, look at the planning of Operation Overlord and the quiet professionalism of Supreme Allied Commander Europe Eisenhower (Tom Selleck), with roughly equal time for each. A New York Times review of this A&E TV movie (commercial break fades and all) seemed more concerned with bashing the product for having been written and produced by a rare right-wing showbiz player around the height of Iraq War fever, but I didn't find anything objectionable about it, apart from a mild bit of Greatest Generation schmaltz. A decent, minor diversion for WW2/military history buffs. B
 



And now, the first of (no doubt) many new reviews!


Darkest Hour (2017)

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I was surprised to learn, after viewing this film, that it was a full 125 minutes - I would have guessed around 105. Not a whole lot happens, story-wise, but the viewing time flies by regardless, and when it ended I wanted to see a sequel at once. (Unless they actually make one, which I would welcome, I guess HBO's very good Into the Storm will have to do.) And, you can believe the hype - Gary Oldman is completely unrecognizable under the makeup, even in very close shots. In fact, it was a good fifteen or so minutes before I remembered it was him somewhere in there at all.

And the movie itself? As a rousing pageant to Great Man Churchill, it's pretty good. There's a major, artistically controversial scene right before the climax that more or less worked for me, though even within the realm of fiction, its authenticity as a measure of the times has been questioned. A fan edit could possibly remove it fairly painlessly, though the next scene does prominently mention it. And while the real-life PM's secretary Elizabeth Layton was apparently perfectly pleasant-looking, Lily James is so fantastically pretty that it almost seemed as if the movie were arguing that any and every national sacrifice to keep her safe would be worth it in of itself.
 
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Even apart from politics, only a monster could bomb a city with this woman in it.

The excellent Bloodline/Rogue One's Ben Mendelsohn is also predictably terrific as George VI; he's good enough that I didn't even wish Colin Firth (The King's Speech) or Rupert Everett (A Royal Night Out) or even Iain Glen (the aforementioned Into the Storm) were reprising their part.

B+. Perfectly enjoyable, and Oldman deserves every accolade coming his way.
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#2
One of my all-time favorites is Memphis Belle. Wonderful cast and a ton of heart. It's been a few years since I watched, so I'm long overdue for a viewing.

I'd give it a solid A on the Gaith scale.

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#3
^ Huh, thanks for the rec. I might just give it a look at some point. Smile



Woman in Gold (2015)

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Two movies jumbled together into one, based on true events. In the early 2000s, a small-time LA lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) helps an elderly Austrian refugee turned American (Helen Mirren) sue her native country for recovery of a famous portrait of her aunt, seized by the Nazis and now displayed in a public museum. Flashbacks show her 1938 escape from Vienna; Tatiana Maslany plays the character in her youth. This one got a lot of lukewarm, sniffy reviews, calling it awards bait and a formulaic rehash of Philomena. Both points may be true, but I liked it regardless. The legal story is pretty interesting, and ends up in a genuinely surprising place. Meanwhile, the 1938 scenes are harrowing, and justify a watch in of themselves. Those looking to do a quick and dirty fan edit could certainly do worse than extract them for a short film about the Anschluss . B+


As for a discussion topic, does anyone have any particular ideas for WW2 stories you'd like to be told in movie/TV form? I myself would love to see a movie covering the Washington, DC debates around American neutrality and the Lend-Lease program; such a movie might also cover similar debates in Hollywood to spice things up. I could have sworn I saw a news item a few years ago for just such a project, but I'm unable to find it now; maybe I made it up. I'd also love to see a film noir set in/around San Francisco's 1939 Treasure Island World's Fair, which featured a Nazi Germany delegation at its 1936 groundbreaking ceremony. (And, of course, the island's administration building, the most prominent survivor of the Fair besides the island itself, served as the Berlin Airport in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.)

Another WW2 movie I've had lately: the life of a fictional British film actor born sometime in the fifties or sixties, who starts out his career playing a few WW2 British soldiers, then a few foreign soldiers, then graduates to officers and generals in his later years, and maybe even plays Churchill at some point. The fun being, of course, to watch the world around him change, while his on-screen era (or the parts we see, at least) stays the same. Maybe a miniseries would be a better fit than a movie? Fun concept, anyhow - or so I think. Tongue



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Meanwhile, a US release of the completed French-produced film The Man with the Iron Heart, starring Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, and Mia Wasikowska, seems to be a victim of the Weinstein fiasco, so far as I can tell, as they got the rights sometime last year and there hasn't been much news of it since. It doesn't seem to have received a UK theatrical release either, though Amazon UK is now selling it on DVD and Blu.

As for 2018 WW2 movies, the only one I know of offhand so far is The Catcher Was a Spy. According to Wiki, "based on the book of the same name, it will star Paul Rudd as Moe Berg, a former baseball player who joined the war effort during World War II and partook in espionage for the U.S. Government." Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, and Paul Giamatti also appear, so color me interested.
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#4
'Memphis Belle' has never had the reputation it deserves for some reason? The soundtrack is beautiful too.



I notice there are no movies from the WW2 period (or soon after) about WW2, listed in the OP reviews?

I'm on the fence about seeing 'Darkest Hour'. The trailer and reviews seem to agree that Gary Oldman is stellar, in a so-so movie.
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#5
What's up with the thread title?
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#6
Do Holocaust films count? I know they're the same era, and one spurred on the other, but they're technically two separate historical events.

Would Schindler's List or Son of Saul be considered World War II films, even though they're not about the war itself?
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#7
^Only if you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie.  Tongue
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#8
(01-14-2018, 11:21 AM)TVs Frink Wrote: What's up with the thread title?

Just a wee play on the "SW - Star Wars", "ST - Star Trek", and "IJ - Indiana Jones" thread titles. I sometimes see WW2 movies, with all their common costuming, tropes, and such, as making up one big unofficial franchise/cinematic universe...
 
(01-14-2018, 01:16 PM)Zamros Wrote: Do Holocaust films count? I know they're the same era, and one spurred on the other, but they're technically two separate historical events.

Absolutely they count, and I don't consider the Holocaust and the war separate events at all, seeing as most of those killed in the former resided in countries conquered in the latter. Heck, I even almost consider a movie like HBO's Warm Springs, dealing with FDR's recovery from paralysis-induced depression and set entirely in the 20s, a WW2 film of sorts, given what a major player in the conflict he'll become.
 
(01-14-2018, 04:06 AM)TM2YC Wrote: I'm on the fence about seeing 'Darkest Hour'. The trailer and reviews seem to agree that Gary Oldman is stellar, in a so-so movie.

It's absolutely worth a rental, and Joe Wright brings his trademark visual flair, but so long as you've got a halfway decent home theater setup, it can wait, IMO.
 
(01-14-2018, 04:06 AM)TM2YC Wrote: I notice there are no movies from the WW2 period (or soon after) about WW2, listed in the OP reviews?

Indeed!


Night Train to Munich (1940)

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Okay, full disclosure, I only saw this once several years ago and don't remember all that much of it. As Vultural notes, there's a weirdly jaunty tone to the pic, which tries to be both a screwball comedy and an espionage caper, despite the central plot being the heroine and her family's fleeing their native Czechoslovakia for their lives. At one point, our hero says that a woman's terrible singing is the worst he suffered during a stay in a German concentration camp - eesh.

The movie is, however, notable for a few things. One is the awesome Al Stewart song that borrows its title (though not its plot). Another is the visually memorable climactic shootout on gondolas above the Alps. The weirdest, though, has to be the second appearance/first re-appearance of Charters and Caldicott, two English cricket fans from Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 The Lady Vanishes. The duo's actors would appear in four "official" films as the characters, plus eight others in which they played similar roles, as well as several radio appearances. The fictional duo even starred a 1985 one-season TV series (played by different actors) in which they stumble onto yet another mystery during their retirement years. In Night Train to Munich, they play "old boy toffs", as Vultural perfectly noted, who are at first fairly indifferent to the Nazis pursuing the heroes, but are eventually roused to quiet sabotage when confronted with the Germans' very un-sportsmanlike behavior.

Released in August 1940, less than three months after the Dunkirk Evacuation, the movie was produced during the Phoney War, the period after Britain and France declared war on the Reich, but before the invasion of the latter and the aerial Blitz against the former. As such, while an enjoyable flick in of itself, it's probably most interesting as a time capsule of a very specific moment in which Brits saw Germans as the enemy, but not necessarily the existential threat they'd become before the movie even hit its screens. (Check out this Criterion essay for more.) B
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#9
Quote:Absolutely they count, and I don't consider the Holocaust and the war separate events at all, seeing as most of those killed in the former resided in countries conquered in the latter. Heck, I even almost consider a movie like HBO's Warm Springs, dealing with FDR's recovery from paralysis-induced depression and set entirely in the 20s, a WW2 film of sorts, given what a major player in the conflict he'll become.

You're right, I was talking out of my arse.

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The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan came out the same year. As a result, they ate into eachothers nominations and "Shakespeare in Love" ended up winning Best Picture.

The two films however, couldn't be more dissimilar. Private Ryan was set in the European theater, while Red Line set in the Pacific. Spielberg tells a constantly engaging story jam packed with lifelike World War II action that moves through its plot with gusto.

Terence Mallick has a penchant for making the most interesting, well directed, beautiful pieces of boring fucking cinema. Well, until recently that is. Now he does none of those things.
Thin Red Line is no exception, plodding along at a snail's pace to really allow you to take in all the horror of war.

Both are examples of 10/10 pictures for me. Fuck you Morgan Freeman, why you gotta ruin this?

EDIT: What the hell is wrong with me? -.-
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#10
(01-14-2018, 03:16 PM)Zamros Wrote: The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan came out the same year. As a result, they ate into eachothers nominations and "Driving Miss Daisy" ended up winning Best Picture.

Actually, that was 1998, not 1989. So Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture.

You owe Morgan Freeman an apology, and need to berate Judi Dench instead.  Big Grin
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