Thursday, April 25, 2013

Top Five Favourite War Films

Today being ANZAC Day here in Australia I decided that is was a good opportunity for me to write about some of my all time favourite war films; a genre I very much enjoy. Some parts of what you are about to read might be considered slight spoilers but I wanted to write freely about these films plus you've most likely seem them before any way.     

1.) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
In my opinion to first film to really show the sheer brutality of war. It hits you right in face and doesn't let up for almost 30 minutes. I'll never forget watching it for the first time with my parents back when it was a new release on VHS. I actually remember my Dad's reaction to what we were seeing more than my personal viewing experience. The moment the door came down on that landing craft, exposing the soldiers to that relentless machine gun fire, almost instant cutting them down is by far my most vivid memory of first seeing the film, as I'm sure it is for a lot of people. 

The three things I love about Saving Private Ryan is the authenticity, honesty and characters. The authenticity for the film's production design, it looks and feels so real and the attention to detail is staggering. It's honesty because it does not shy away from anything and the characters for not being so generic and one dimensional, especially Tom Hanks as Capt. John Miller. A true soldier and leader, focused on carrying out his missing despite his personal feelings towards it. We know little about him for the majority of the film as he is extremely private in regards to his civilian life, probably as a safe guard against forming emotional bonds with his men. A wise policy as it is war after wall, where life constantly hangs on a thread. It's an amazingly well made film. 

2.) Apocalypse Now (1979)
There's something very surreal about Francis Ford Coppola's nightmarish depiction of the war in Vietnam. The vivid use of colours mainly shades of orange and reds give the film a very distinct look. I love the journey aspect of this film, being on board that tiny boat with such diverse characters; getting to know each one bit by over the course of the film. And the gradual build up to finally meeting the rogue Colonel Walter E. Kurtz is brilliant. It's the whole mystery that surrounds him; will he even been at this supposed destination? Is he just an soldier gone AWOL or will he turn out to be the devil himself. He's portrayed as like some mythical figure.     

Which version of the film do I prefer? I would have to say Redux, simply because it's longer. I mean this film is so awesome the longer it is the better.  

3.) The Guns of Navarone (1961)
This was first classic war film I ever saw and one of the first films to finally make me realise that not all old films are boring and silly. This World War 2 epic boasts an impressive cast of high calibre actors, such as Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn.

Like Apocalypse Now I really love the journey aspect to this film. It's a constant up-hill battle and the stakes are very high as hundred of lives depend on this team of saboteurs destroying these two enormous and highly accurate fortified German guns. 

The plot is well paced, it's intense and the pay off is very satisfying despite some of the effects being a little dated but pretty impressive for it's time. If you want to start exploring some of the classic war films The Guns of Navarone is a great place to start.

4.) The Longest Day (1962)
The film starring everyone! Forty two international stars according to the poster. This is the big budget Hollywood dramatisation of the D-Day Landings on the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6th 1944 as part of Operation Overlord. 

This three hour epic takes the unusual approach of giving the audience a look from the perspectives of both the Allies and German armed forces. I wouldn't say it's a balanced look as the Germans clearly are the "bad guys", but it's more from a strategic point of view. We get a idea of the mind set and mentality of these two great opposing forces. It's fascinating to watch. 

The lead up the landings is my favourite part of the film. Watching everything unfold, the speeches, the preparation, the flexing of military might is so awe inspiring. The rest of the film is pretty much just battle sequences which are pretty spectacular to say the least. The Longest Day is one very entertaining war film.    

5.) Downfall (2004) 
A very dramatic, brilliantly acted and disturbing depiction of Adolf Hitler's finals days down inside his Berlin bunker at the end of World War 2. The film responsible for countless Internet video parodies of significant and popular new events, which of course only work if you don't understand German.  

The film is centred on Hitler's last personal secretary Traudl Junge. We see most of the goings on in those final days from her point of view. Hitler is played by Swiss actor Bruno Granz who without a doubt gives one of the greatest performances of all time; all you can see is Hitler when you watch this guy. 
And it's not just ranking and raving, you really get an idea of how delusional Hitler was towards the end. And the film itself is very tricky as there are moments when you almost feel sorry him, as messed up as that sounds. Overall is it's an incredible film and one of the all time great achievements in German film-making. 

Yes I know, it's ANZAC Day and I didn't mention any Aussie war films. I'm not saying that there aren't any good ones, there are some truly great ones but I just haven't seen that many. However I will be watching Peter Weir's 1981 epic Gallipoli tonight. A film I really wanted to talk about above but it's been a ten years since I saw it and that was in high school which is not the ideal setting for watching films. So watch this space as I'll be updating this blog post after I watch the film. 


The video version is now available to watch in HD on my YouTube channel.
Running time is approx 7 minutes.  

1 comment:

  1. Amazing list dude! I love every single one of those films. The Longest Day.... I'm so glad that someone else loves that film as much as I do. I agree on the first part being my favorite as well. The build up is brilliant!