From Here to Eternity (1953)

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This is what everyone did in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor.

There’s something about war that goes well with Oscars, like peanut butter and jelly.  If you’ve been around on this blog awhile, you may recall that I devoted an entire month to war-related films and still had plenty left over for other posts – like, for example, this one.  Perhaps it’s because there is some inherent drama in war:  the personal story meets the epic, the constant threat of death offers a natural level of drastic stakes.  I’ve seen a lot of war movies now, and they’re all a little bit different, but they’re also all a little bit the same.

FHtE opens on the arrival of a new soldier to an army unit in Hawaii.  He’s both a bugler and a boxer, and there must be some kind of joke there, but now he doesn’t really do either.  His commanding officer, a douchebag who doesn’t do much and takes all the credit, brought him there because he wanted to win a boxing championship.  Since he refuses to box, most of his peers and superiors make his life difficult with elaborate hazing rituals and punishments, because the time-honored method of getting someone to become a team player is to treat them like crap until they cave and do whatever you want.

Meanwhile, the non-commissioned officer (by the way, if I sound like I’m throwing off vaguely-accurate military terms with confidence, it’s only because I’ve decided to take a stab at it and hope for the best) who runs the show decides the best thing for his career is to indulge in Captain Douchebag’s wife.  If you’ve maybe played trivia and seen a still image from this movie in a picture round, say, it might have been this beach make-out scene.

Also, Frank Sinatra is in this movie.  Because why not?

I like the subtlety overall of the film, set in Hawaii in the weeks or months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Except for one scene, where someone is casually leaning near a wall calendar with the date brightly indicated in red:  December 6!!!  (exclamation points possibly added).

I just read a movie review for Moonlight (even my non-movie-watching ass was intrigued), in which the reviewer likened an actor’s performance to the experience of watching Montgomery Clift act for the first time.  I mean, I guess it was fine and all, once I figured out which one he was, but I didn’t notice anything unusually brilliant.  This is probably why I’m only a blogger and not a professional critic.  Most of my reviews would be one sentence:  Yeah, that was cool, I guess.

 

Theme:  War & Doomed Romance

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Nobody lies about being lonely

Casablanca (1943)

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Casablanca is one of those films that I assume everybody except me has seen, because everybody seems to be able to quote it at will and everybody, even seventy-five years later, knows exactly who Humphrey Bogart is.  That’s probably not entirely true, but Casablanca is high on the list of iconic films that I thought I should watch before I die, simply because it’s so famous.

Surprisingly, this is a case where knowing just enough about a movie to anticipate the ending doesn’t ruin it, but actually kind of enhances the rest of it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the only thing I knew about this movie was the end of it (spoiler, if that wasn’t obvious):  Bogie sends his lady friend off on an airplane in a form of self-sacrifice.  The thrill of it was going back to see how they got to that point, like learning a joke after you’ve heard the punchline.

One of the things I marvel at in these films from the forties, particularly the ones about the war is that they came out during the war, before they knew how it was going to end, and yet they already knew how monumental it was.  When I look at the world around us now, I wonder if we are living in similarly momentous times, and how we’ll come out of it.  So far I am not totally optimistic.

For those who aren’t already familiar with the film, here’s a brief summary:  Rick Blaine (Bogart) owns a bar in Casablanca, Morocco, which is a nebulous zone of “unoccupied France,” which seems to mean that officials from France and Germany wander through the city at will, along with refugees from various parts of Europe.  Everybody’s on their way somewhere safer, so long as they can get the appropriate paperwork.  Rick just happens to get his hands on the equivalent of a get out of jail free card that will get two people out of the country scot-free.  And then an old flame walks into his bar.

The character Victor Laszlo has escaped from a concentration camp and thus is highly sought after by the Nazi forces.  His only expressed affiliation is as a member of the underground French Resistance.  Though there were certainly other groups singled out by the Germans for concentration camps, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this guy was Jewish, which kinda makes me root for him more than Bogie.  Beat those Nazis!

I’m glad I saved this for later in the year.  It’s one of my favorite movies from the earliest decades of Oscar history, and makes the whole project seem more worthwhile.  I mean, let’s be real, I could have skipped the crappy films and just watched this one, but then I wouldn’t have had the context to judge it among its contemporaries.

 

Theme:  War & Doomed Romance

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  A hill of beans

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

 

Based solely on the title and the fact that this movie is set during World War II (set and released), I decided that it must be about a Rosie-the-Riveter type of woman who worked in a factory in support of the war.  I thought, Oh, cool, my grandma did a Rosie-the-Riveter job during the war.  Which then prompted an evening-long venture through Google genealogy to research my family history, and which I’ll be happy to delineate in careful detail now.

Oh, wait.  Movie.  That’s right.  Well, anyway, though Mrs. Miniver is a war movie, it is unfortunately not about Rosie the Riveter.  It’s not even set in the United States.  The film was actually created to encourage Americans to support the Allied effort (even the end credits implore you to buy bonds!).

The title Miniver is your typical upper middle class lady who likes shopping and buys overly expensive hats (women, amiright?), which turns out to be okay because her Don Draper-esque husband just blew some cash on a new car.  Somehow, Mrs. Miniver ends up admitting she’s wrong about something while her husband calls her fat, and then they go to bed in neighboring twin beds.  Then the war starts.

You might wonder why a war movie is named after a woman.  Here’s the twist:  by the middle of the picture, there are actually two Mrs. Minivers.  The elder Mrs. M’s son, Vin, meets the daughter of the local baroness, and despite the fact that Vin introduces himself by man-splaining something about social consciousness, they fall in love.  In a weird side plot, the baroness hosts a flower competition in the village, except that nobody has ever attempted to compete against her… until now!

How might the Bechdel test have fared in a movie from 1942, even one that apparently focuses on the life of a woman?  Not well, as a matter of fact.  I’ve interpreted the Test to mean that two women characters must be in a scene alone to qualify, and it’s a good hour into the film before we even see the two women alone together.  Instead of dialogue, they sit gaping in shock at something war-ish.  I don’t think that counts.  Later on, after Vin enlists in the air force, the ladies Miniver end up discussing at length how much it will suck if Vin dies in combat, but that, at the end of the day, they’ll figure out how to move past it.  I won’t ruin the ending.

The moral of this movie, if you could say such a thing, is that war – and particularly this war – affects the lives of everyone, including the women who wait at home for their loved ones to return safely.  It’s not an especially novel message, but an affecting one nonetheless.  While watching, I found myself marveling at the very idea of making a movie about the war while it was going on, without knowing what its result might be.  Especially in 1942, when the U.S. had just barely got into the game, and everything seemed to be running in Germany’s favor.  For some reason, World War II remains in many ways the favorite war to depict on film.  I wonder whether and how the war will carry on in our memories long after our grandparents and their own memories have faded into history.

 

Theme:  Ladies in Film

Bechdel Test:  Total failure

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Gentlemen don’t propose when they’re eating.

 

Meta-post: Month of War

We’ve reached another milestone, the end of another two-month block of Oscar-winning movies.  I have to admit that I’m kind of glad to be moving on from the war films.  Though I watched a fairly wide range of pictures this month, ranging from gritty realism to charming musical, in the end, the plots of each were relatively similar:  war happens, and it sucks.

One thing that surprised me after watching a whole series of war films over eight decades was that they weren’t that different.  Maybe it was naïve, but I expected there to be some sort of continuum of focus or storyline, with each decade promising a greater depth of character or meaning.  Hell, I expected to see more heroic World War II films, of the sort that I associate with war movies (but probably can’t name by title).  Something like Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, where you learn how deep the camaraderie flows in the way everyone in a platoon unites as one unit despite their differences.

Or maybe I expected the opposite – films that show only the brutality of war.  Yes, there was plenty of that, but not exclusively.  I’d have guessed that the films depicted World War II would show more of a patriotic vision, the rightness of war, in opposition to the wrongness of Vietnam.  Our views of war are tinted by whether our side was the winning one, by our justification of the act itself.  And it’s true:  there is a bit of a divide in perspective between the two wars, which together made up the bulk of the subject matter of the films I selected.  Perhaps the most positive-themed movie in this batch was The Bridge on the River Kwai, and that was only because they managed to blow up the bridge in the end.  (It’s worth pointing out that this happened in a POW camp.  And half the characters died.)  Oh, and then there was The Sound of Music, which ended with them escaping the Nazis (yay!) but also ended with the Nazis taking over (boo!).

In short, it is clear both that we haven’t learned how to avoid war in the eighty-plus years that movies have been made about it and that we will never cease to ask questions about war in various art forms.  Do we look to these for entertainment because we want to better understand the consequences of war on people and society, or do we believe war to be something different than what it is?

I don’t know.  I’ve read quite a bit about soldiers’ experiences in war, various ones throughout the ages, and I can’t help wondering what keeps dragging us back into conflicts despite our best intentions.  It’s like that old quote attributed to Einstein, where the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  We aren’t exactly repeating the same thing – after all, in different eras and with different players, can you really say each war is the same? – and yet, there is a sameness to each of these soldiers in war.  In each movie, we see people who once believed in a greater cause, only to find that in war, there is no cause but survival.

 

The Hurt Locker (2009)

 

From above a flat. and dry desert floor, a person in a green military uniform with heavy padding holds red wires attached to seven pill-shaped bomb canisters scattered around him. At the top of the poster are three critics' favorable opinions: "A near-perfect movie", "A full-tilt action picture", and "Ferociously suspenseful". Below the quotes is the title "THE HURT LOCKER" and the tagline, "You don't have to be a hero to do this job. But it helps."

Like most people, I was entirely unaware of Jeremy Renner’s existence for a long time, and then suddenly he was everywhere.  He was Hawkeye, then he was in that other action movie, and the fairy tale one, then he was Hawkeye again…  Basically my knowledge base of cinema comes from comic book movies.  Here’s apparently where it all started.

So, okay, Jeremy Renner.  By the time he comes on the scene in The Hurt Locker, we’ve already encountered the classic war movie tropes of “soldiers demonstrate how Real they are by talking about their dicks” and “soldiers chat about something innocuous just before somebody bites it.”  Maybe that’s the same thing.  Then in comes the guy who isn’t a team player.

I had trouble enjoying this movie because I hated Renner’s character so much.  He’s good in the role, and meant to be unlikeable – the maverick who’s so caught up in his own experience that he ignores the needs of his fellow soldiers.  But that’s the problem – he may be good at defusing bombs, but he’s a terrible commanding officer.  So many of his decisions seem based not even on seeking adventure, but of recklessly challenging death, like he’s on a suicide mission that he repeatedly fails.

And sure, I’ve definitely enjoyed a few unlikeable, self-destructive characters in my day.  Dr. House.  Starbuck.  Sherlock.  I try to avoid such people in real life because, I’ve come to find, if someone is an asshole, it really doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are.  Jerks can certainly be successful, but in real life, I think they’re more tolerated than admired.

If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning, you may recall that I first planned to do this Oscar-movie-watching exercise a couple years ago.  So I watched this film once before.  Though I recalled some of the tenser moments – the long wait in the desert for the snipers, the bizarre trip off-base that still doesn’t entirely make sense – I couldn’t remember how it actually ended.  And now I realize why:  because it kind of doesn’t.  It’s less a movie about change or even self-realization than it is a character study.  Renner starts out a particular way, which is further revealed to us in a series of vignettes, and he survives to do it all over again.  There’s a quote at the beginning of the picture that says “war is a drug.”  I guess that’s really what addiction is, put simply, doing something that’s not good for you because you can’t help yourself.

So we come to the end of the cruelest month, and the cruelest topic.  Next month, I’ll try to return to sappy musicals and slapstick comedies.  I’ll be taking a bit of a break next week, but I’m excited about my next theme month, scheduled for June!  Stay tuned.

 

Theme:  War

Which War:  Iraqi Freedom

First Time Watching?  No, I watched this once before

Final Verdict:  A once-in-a-lifetime experience

 

Forrest Gump (1994)

 

When I was a kid, I had the Forrest Gump soundtrack, despite never having watched the movie.  I’m not sure how that came about, except maybe that I’d developed an interest in music through the decades and that soundtrack seemed like a suitable way to get a completely random assortment of songs.  It was only on my full viewing of the film – now, for this blog – that I’ve seen how they were used in the film.  Occasionally, songs play an actual noteworthy role in setting mood or atmosphere, but far too often, we just get a few seconds’ splat against the eardrum as if they just crammed a jukebox in the audio track to see if anything sticks.  There’s a lot of random music in this movie.

Though I never knew the exact plot of Forrest Gump, I knew the basic gist of it:  a developmentally disabled man stumbles his way through key historical moments in recent history.  And since the most affecting event of Forrest’s generation was the Vietnam War, the conflict and its aftermath take up a significant proportion of the film.  Since the tone of the movie is light, we’re not really left much time to think about the deaths that occur, or the long-lasting effects of alcoholism and homelessness among veterans, or the trauma of abuse and depression.  So many shitty things happen in this movie, but we just have to shrug it off for the next zany thing Forrest comes up with!

I’m probably just a wet blanket.  But I don’t know, I’m sure most people have seen this film, but I don’t know of anyone who raves about it.  Nobody claims it as their favorite movie of all time, at least nobody I know.  (Maybe I’m wrong – and if so, feel free to share your love and reasons for it.)  But I’m not sure that it’s a story of deep emotional resonance.  I guess what bothered me was that Forrest is not a character who makes things happen – he simply reacts to things in his simple way and is rewarded with incredibly good luck.  All the while, he seems relatively unaffected by anything that comes his way – even, ultimately, his losses.

It is one of those movies that’s had a lasting impact on popular culture, for better or for worse – there’s a Bubba Gump restaurant in Times Square now, isn’t there? And who hasn’t quoted one of those famous lines of pseudo-wisdom?  That’s what this blog project is about, I keep reminding myself – watching the movies that have some kind of social significance, even if it’s in the form of one-liners.

That said, the movie does use a few unusual techniques to make it something more than the average life story: the telling-a-story-on-a-bench framing device (though I wish it had a bit more of a significant payoff, and I thought it would end with a crowd gathering around to hear his story); the naïve narrator, through whose eyes we see things that are familiar with a fresher perspective.  I’m just not sure what it all adds up to.  We’re swept along like a feather on the wind, and drop somewhere for a while until the wind picks up again.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  Vietnam War

First Time Watching?  I’ve seen parts, but never in its entirety

Final Verdict:  That’s all I have to say about that.

Platoon (1986)

 

Oh, Charlie Sheen, where did you go wrong?  You could have been a well-respected Oscar-worthy actor, but instead you went a little loco with all that tiger blood running through your veins.  Musta been the war.

When I was younger, I read a lot of books about the Vietnam conflict.  Mostly they were soldiers’ memoirs – the story of a sniper, the experiences of a tunnel rat.  The war was something that seemed so all-encompassing, as much a conflict at home as it was abroad.  Though I’m sure there were other disagreements of this sort in politics and society before Vietnam, this seems to be the foundation of the conservative-liberal debate today.  Where the differences in each group’s values and priorities grew apparent.

It was probably television that sparked my interest.  Storylines on my beloved Quantum Leap.  Then I discovered Tour of Duty in syndication somewhere.  Maybe even more than World War II, popular culture has figured into fictional and realistic portrayals of American troops in Vietnam.  It fascinates us in a different way than other wars, perhaps because its non-military effects have lasted so much longer.  We seek to explain their experiences, understand their horror, because of the way the war’s aftermath has lingered with its participants.

But the thing that I didn’t read much about – and probably didn’t think much about, even – were the lives of the Vietnamese, the people who survived (and didn’t survive) their homes destroyed, their communities shattered, their land covered in unexploded ordnance and poisonous chemicals.  Now we go out for pho without thinking too hard about what brought the restaurant owner here, what they were seeking and what they may have left behind.  I suspect there’s not much on American television or film that addresses that hole in the experience.  However, I know there are Vietnamese writers out there who are exploring this legacy, but I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t name one, nor have I read any of them.  It’s a slow process, but I’d like to think I’m getting closer to remedying the gap, for myself, anyway.

But that’s why the most affecting scene for me in Platoon was the one in which the soldiers ransack a village.  The troops shoot pigs, burn down thatch huts, hold a gun to a child’s head – all as a show of power, a warning against resistance.  We often try to see the actions of our own country at war as justified, if not in the individual forays than at least as a whole.

Platoon sets up this conflict as a dichotomy within Charlie Sheen’s soul – he holds parts of his two commanding officers’ attitudes, the bloodthirsty one and the guy resigned to his fate, trying to get through the day.  War exposes something carnal inside us, the instinct to survive battling against our more sophisticated desires.  Where does he end up falling?

I wanted to like this a little better, but I had some trouble seeing characters as individuals with unique perspectives, rather than as archetypes, representative of whichever side they fell in the big They/Us separation.  You learn early on who the Bad Guys are, and there’s not as much room for complexity.  Charlie Sheen’s character volunteers for the war because he wants to learn something – about himself, presumably – but all he learns is that war wasn’t what he expected it to be at all.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  Vietnam War

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Winning?

 

The Deer Hunter (1978)

One of the most interesting things about this film is that, in a way, it’s really not about war much at all.  In fact, the screen time devoted to a wedding – its preparation, its celebration, its aftermath – far outstrips that spent in combat.  In fairness, war is the catalyst that drives so much of these characters’ actions, but the daily lives of these people, a close-knit community of Russian immigrant steelworkers in Pennsylvania, is what’s truly important.

I find myself complaining a little less about the length of these movies now that I’m a seasoned Oscar-film-watching veteran.  So many of them top out at three hours, and The Deer Hunter is no exception.  And yet, I didn’t struggle with the length of this one like I have with so many others.  Which is maybe surprising, considering how much of the first hour consists only of following a group of drunk dudes shout-singing at each other.  Voyeuristically, the viewer is plunged into the middle of the action without much of a sense of what’s going on, or who’s who, and yet, it gradually becomes clearer what the dynamics are between characters (even if one may still struggle with remembering names and faces…).

So much of the film revolves around this game of Russian roulette, which the guys first encounter in what seems to be a makeshift prison camp somewhere in Vietnam.  We don’t get many clues as to what’s happened to bring them to this point.  Instead, we focus on how they react under the intense stress of the situation.  Steven the newlywed can’t cope; he panics.  Robert DeNiro’s Michael takes charge, relying on the cooperation of his old roommate Nick for backup.  That’s when something changes for all of the men.

I mostly think of Christopher Walken as a cheesy guy, often mimicked for the sake of a joke.  The guy who appears dancing in a Fatboy Slim music video, who shows up in a wide array of films of varying quality.  But here he is tearing it up in a serious role that also happened to land him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Although the movie follows the law of Chekhov’s Gun (corollary: if a gun is used in Russian roulette, at some point, the gun will fire and kill a major character), it still manages to surprise in the meandering, unsettled way the soldiers’ lives resume after their service.  Michael doesn’t say much of his time in war, and yet he walks the town in his Special Forces uniform, mostly accepting the welcome return he receives from friends who stayed behind.  Nothing much seems to have changed for any of them.  And yet, not all of their number have come back whole.

War brings out an inner brutality in people that’s kept hidden in peacetime.  I’m not sure if it’s trauma or something else that triggers Nick’s transformation.  One shot is all it takes to kill a deer, Michael says.  One shot changes everything.  Big Buck Hunter this ain’t.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  Vietnam

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Fuckin’ A

The Sound of Music (1965)

This is one of those films that everyone seems to know intimately well, having watched it regularly since childhood.  I regret to inform you that I did not have that childhood.  Instead, my childhood was marked by a toy consisting of a pair of kittens in a basket that, upon turning a key, would play a tinny-sounding “My Favorite Things” while the kittens swayed in unison.  They were so well synchronized because they were part of the same metal frame fused together, I discovered after investigating underneath the basket.  I also learned that the music played on a metal cylinder with holes drilled at appropriate intervals, though I didn’t realize the tune’s origin until many years later.

Up until watching The Sound of Music this past weekend, all I really knew of the plot came from moments recreated on Family Guy.  And I suspect a significant chunk of the movie ended up in parody form at some point; I almost convinced myself that I’d seen the movie before because of the familiarity of the final scenes at the concert and the cemetery.  Who knows?  Maybe I have.

Like most romances, this one begins with the dude acting like an asshole because the woman is being herself.  The free-spirited Maria can’t hack it as a nun, so they send her to manage a brood of children under the tyrannical leadership of their naval officer father, Von Trapp (who is surprisingly resistant to the tyrannical leadership of Hitler).  Somehow, with the help of a few show-stopping numbers, everybody gets along (except for Hitler).  That pretty much sums up the film.  I suspect most people reading this know far more about it than I do.

In terms of the 1960s decade, there’s a relative dearth of war pictures, and there’s probably a good reason for it.  World War II was distant enough by that point that it didn’t hang quite so heavy on people’s lives, and by the time the Vietnam War dominated the news, it’s understandable that people wanted to avoid thinking about it in their entertainment.  The closest you get is this, which is more romance than drama, a little too upbeat to really delve deeply into the horrors of war.

Admittedly, The Sound of Music is an unusual choice for a war-themed series.  While the threat of war looms heavily on the story, particularly in the later moments, it’s not really a “war movie” per se.  Then again, nothing says war like Nazis.  I thought it would be interesting to include regardless, as a contrast of sorts to the other angles we’ve seen of war thus far:  the cold monotony of trench warfare, the recovery of soldiers back home, the drudgery and adventure of troops and commandos.  Here is a pleasant family life spoiled by war.  The story of The Sound of Music suggests more to me of the lives of Jews in Germany and throughout Eastern Europe, forced to uproot their lives to escape the Nazis.  I don’t know enough about the making of the film (or its original musical) to determine whether the story of this family is meant to reflect the struggles of oppressed peoples, or if it’s just that so many of the stories of refugees were similar.  Except maybe the part with the singing kids.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this film, being all cool and cynical, but I mostly did.  Not having seen it, I still recognized so many of the songs, which have percolated into popular culture (and creepy children’s toys).  As a kid, I remember getting bored in the musical numbers of movies, wanting them to just get on with the damn story already, and I feel a little of that here, too.  Fortunately, these days, I have a smartphone to distract me.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  World War II (Anschluss)

First Time Watching?  Yes.  For God’s sake, yes, I’ve never seen it before!

Final Verdict:  How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?  I mean, will it just sit there, or do you have to wrap it up in your fist, or what?

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

 

I’m going to expose my lack of World War II knowledge and confess that I didn’t realize Burma was a part of the Pacific theater.  I’m going to further expose my ignorance by admitting that I had to look up where the movie took place, even after having watched the film.  Maybe I’ve been tainted by too many Vietnam war movies, so that anything tropical and war-y would seem to take place there.  (Okay, I knew it wasn’t Vietnam, but I was thinking Thailand for a while.  Or maybe the Philippines.)

As Eurocentric people (referring specifically to white Americans, I suppose), we tend to focus so much on the German side of the war, and forget far too easily what happened in the Pacific.  If not for Pearl Harbor, we might not have bothered getting involved in that particular conflict at all, leaving Japan to run rampant throughout China, Korea, and apparently Burma.  Of course, when I think about it, Burma was a British colony at the time (which I know primarily thanks to George Orwell, who wrote many essays on his experiences in the British Foreign Service).  I’ve just explained a lot to myself.  Thanks for bearing witness to my learning.

All of this is sort of beside the point.  I’m supposed to be talking about a movie here.

Bridge takes place in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, where a new group of British POWs is induced to build a bridge spanning the river Kwai (hence the title).  The big conflict, though, is not over whether the soldiers will be forced to build the bridge – that’s a given.  The question is whether the officers will join in the labor, against the rules of the Geneva convention.  Alec Guinness is great as Colonel Nicholson, the stodgy officer who stands on principle in defiance of the Japanese prison camp commanding officer, Saito.  You pretty much alternate between admiring his grit and wanting to pound his head against the wall for refusing to back down even at the risk of death.  His troops all admire him, too, perhaps because they don’t realize that they will not be spared hard labor no matter what the result of Nicholson’s last stand.  Nicholson is even principled enough to order his men to build the bridge right, rather than intentionally sabotaging the job as they’d done outside of his influence.

Meanwhile, there’s an American POW (who is, incidentally, a bit like Don Draper) in the camp who is far less eager to help his captors.  He manages to escape and is then enticed by a guy who looks remarkably like Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Stephen Moffat to return on a mission to destroy the bridge.  While the battle of wits between Nicholson and Saito is probably the more interesting conflict, character-wise, it’s hard to resist an exciting commando mission.

Sorry, Sherlock season 4 is delayed while I go blow up a bridge.

I’m a sucker for juxtaposition, and I love the scene where the two commandos are setting up explosives on the base of the bridge while the prisoners are inside celebrating its completion with pantos in drag (such a British thing to do).

It’s really interesting how each of the war movies I’ve watched so far has approached it from a completely different angle.  This one is almost more of an adventure story that also happens to have a war as a backdrop.  Being a POW is no walk in the park, and the movie sort of brushes past that fact, but otherwise, it’s an entertaining film.  I did think that it was about an hour shorter than it actually was, so I had to pause in the middle when I started falling asleep, picking it up the next day.  But that’s not really a criticism, except in my own planning.

As the Brits might say, “Good show.”  And I’m not talking about the panto.

 

Theme:  War

Which One:  World War II (pacific theater)

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Bridge to a T