|A U.S. soldier is dead, and military lawyers Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee and Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway want to know who killed him. "You want the truth?" snaps Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson). "You can't handle the truth!" Astonishingly, Jack Nicholson's legendary performance as a military tough guy in A Few Good Men really amounts to a glorified cameo: he's only in a few scenes. But they're killer scenes, and the film has much more to offer. Tom Cruise (Kaffee) shines as a lazy lawyer who rises to the occasion, and Demi Moore (Galloway) gives a command performance. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (of Jerry Maguire fame) round out the superb cast. Director Rob Reiner poses important questions about the rights of the powerful and the responsibilities of those just following orders in this classic courtroom drama. --Alan Smithee|
|In the tradition of such obsessively driven directors as Erich von Stroheim and Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola approached the production of Apocalypse Now as if it were his own epic mission into the heart of darkness. On location in the storm-ravaged Philippines, he quite literally went mad as the project threatened to devour him in a vortex of creative despair, but from this insanity came one of the greatest films ever made. It began as a John Milius screenplay, transposing Joseph Conrad's classic story "Heart of Darkness" into the horrors of the Vietnam War, following a battle-weary Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a secret upriver mission to find and execute the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has reverted to a state of murderous and mystical insanity. The journey is fraught with danger involving wartime action on epic and intimate scales. One measure of the film's awesome visceral impact is the number of sequences, images, and lines of dialogue that have literally burned themselves into our cinematic consciousness, from the Wagnerian strike of helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village to the brutal murder of stowaways on a peasant sampan and the unflinching fearlessness of the surfing warrior Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who speaks lovingly of "the smell of napalm in the morning." Like Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, this film is the product of genius cast into a pit of hell and emerging, phoenix-like, in triumph. Coppola's obsession (effectively detailed in the riveting documentary Hearts of Darkness, directed by Coppola's wife, Eleanor) informs every scene and every frame, and the result is a film for the ages. --Jeff Shannon|
|An impressively rigorous, unsentimental, and harrowing look at combat during World War II, Band of Brothers follows a company of airborne infantry--Easy Company--from boot camp through the end of the war. The brutality of training takes the audience by increments to the even greater brutality of the war; Easy Company took part in some of the most difficult battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the failed invasion of Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest. But what makes these episodes work is not their historical sweep but their emphasis on riveting details (such as the rattle of a plane as the paratroopers wait to leap, or a flower in the buttonhole of a German soldier) and procedures (from military tactics to the workings of bureaucratic hierarchies). The scope of this miniseries (10 episodes, plus an actual documentary filled with interviews with surviving veterans) allows not only a thoroughness impossible in a two-hour movie, but also captures the wide range of responses to the stress and trauma of war--fear, cynicism, cruelty, compassion, and all-encompassing confusion. The result is a realism that makes both simplistic judgments and jingoistic enthusiasm impossible; the things these soldiers had to do are both terrible and understandable, and the psychological price they paid is made clear. The writing, directing, and acting are superb throughout. The cast is largely unknown, emphasizing the team of actors as a whole unit, much like the regiment; Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston play the central roles of two officers with grit and intelligence. Band of Brothers turns a vast historical event into a series of potent personal experiences; it's a deeply engrossing and affecting accomplishment. --Bret Fetzer|
|If you are an action fiend, you will want to add this movie to your collection. Behind Enemy Lines is just average military thriller movie starring Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman and a pretty good ensemble cast. The story of the movie is pretty simple. Owen Wilson is a Navy pilot/navigator assigned on the aircraft carrier U.S.S Carl Vinson captained by Gene Hackman. The carrier is deployed to support the NATO effort in the Bosnia conflict. During a recon mission, Owen and his pilot stray into the DMZ and discover the Bosnian Serbs covering up a mass grave. After being discovered, the Serbs deploy Surface to Air missiles and shoot down the F-18.|
When the F-18 flies over the Bosnian, they fire up several SAM?s to shoot down the plane. What follows next is some of the best action film sequences I have even seen. The F-18 is being pursued by 2 SAM's that eventually end up getting the plane which requires the pilot and navigator to eject and land in enemy territory. While on the ground, the movie gets interesting as Owen Wilson is pursed by rebel Serbian forces and a trained killer as he tries to make to one of the safe zones for extraction.
In one of the lighter parts of this movie, Owen Wilson is rescued by a bunch of Croat Muslims as he is being chased by the Serb sniper. One of the guys is an Elvis impersonator while the other young guy in the back is an Ice Cube fan. As he's sitting in the back of the pickup truck, this young Croat is admiring his 9mm sidearm. Turns out this guy is big fan of hip-hop and rap and start rapping. It's pretty funny, but I guess you just have to see it.
Everything eventually ends well and the rescue team does come and get him making this a fun joyful ride. The special effects are great and you must watch this movie with your volume cranked up. This is a great movie to show off your receivers and speakers.
|In Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg depicts the D-day landings with a realism lauded by veterans. The Big Red One depicts the D-day landings, too, and it was made by a veteran. Writer-director Samuel Fuller, who served in the First Infantry Division from North Africa to Czechoslovakia (including the Normandy landings), made a career out of swift, punchy B movies, such as Pickup on South Street and The Naked Kiss. The Big Red One became Fuller's nod to A-movie filmmaking, yet it has the solid, matter-of-fact perspective of the ground-level infantryman. The episodic action ranges all over the European theater, as a tough squad of American GIs (including Mark Hamill and Robert Carradine) follow their hard-bitten sergeant (Lee Marvin, at his best) and try to stay alive. Filmed mostly in Israel, the film delivers on the requisite war-movie conventions and tough-guy humor but also introduces notes of poetry. Fuller's D-day doesn't match the pyrotechnics of Spielberg's version, but it creates power from the simple image of a dead soldier's watch, ticking away in blood-soaked surf. A fine and memorable picture, The Big Red One might have been even greater had it been released in Fuller's full-length cut--someday perhaps a restoration will allow the director's vision to be seen for the first time. --Robert Horton|
|Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down conveys the raw, chaotic urgency of ground-force battle in a worst-case scenario. With exacting detail, the film re-creates the American siege of the Somalian city of Mogadishu in October 1993, when a 45-minute mission turned into a 16-hour ordeal of bloody urban warfare. Helicopter-borne U.S. Rangers were assigned to capture key lieutenants of Somali warlord Muhammad Farrah Aidid, but when two Black Hawk choppers were felled by rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. soldiers were forced to fend for themselves in the battle-torn streets of Mogadishu, attacked from all sides by armed Aidid supporters. Based on author Mark Bowden's best-selling account of the battle, Scott's riveting, action-packed film follows a sharp ensemble cast in some of the most authentic battle sequences ever filmed. The loss of 18 soldiers turned American opinion against further involvement in Somalia, but Black Hawk Down makes it clear that the men involved were undeniably heroic. --Jeff Shannon|
|Same As Above Plus|
|Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning 1995 Braveheart is an impassioned epic about William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish leader of a popular revolt against England's tyrannical Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). Gibson cannily plays Wallace as a man trying to stay out of history's way until events force his hand, an attribute that instantly resonates with several of the actor's best-known roles, especially Mad Max. The subsequent camaraderie and courage Wallace shares in the field with fellow warriors is pure enough and inspiring enough to bring envy to a viewer, and even as things go wrong for Wallace in the second half, the film does not easily cave in to a somber tone. One of the most impressive elements is the originality with which Gibson films battle scenes, featuring hundreds of extras wielding medieval weapons. After Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight, and even Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, you might think there is little new that could be done in creating scenes of ancient combat; yet Gibson does it. --Tom Keogh |
In his engaging audio commentary, Mel Gibson is deeply appreciative of his cast and collaborators (especially Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll) and, of course, quite amusing when he wants to be. Gibson notes, "I fell in love a little bit" when he cast then-newcomer Catherine McCormack as William Wallace's ill-fated bride, and throughout his informative commentary, the actor-director conveys genuine passion for the story and a firm understanding of the period history that informed the entire production. The accompanying documentary, Mel Gibson's "Braveheart": A Filmmaker's Passion, is a 28-minute promotional film with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with primary cast and crew. Particularly interesting are sequences revealing the equipment required for the epic battle scenes, including air cannons for firing dozens of arrows, and costly mechanical horses created to simulate animal-related violence. Viewers will especially admire the considerable challenge of filming in Europe's rainiest region, Scotland, where inclement weather enhanced the film's gritty authenticity. --Jeff Shannon
|This massive 1977 adaptation by director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi) of Cornelius Ryan's novel features an all-star cast in an epic rendering of a daring but ultimately disastrous raid behind enemy lines in Holland during the Second World War. A lengthy and exhaustive look at the mechanics of warfare and the price and futility of war, the film is almost too large for its aims but manages to be both picaresque and affecting, particularly in the performance of James Caan. The impressive cast includes Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, and Liv Ullmann among others. While not a classic war film, it nevertheless manages to be a consistently interesting and exciting adventure. --Robert Lane|
|A year after a devastating friendly fire incident during the Gulf War, Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is in a Washington, D.C., desk job assigned the rudimentary task of overseeing a Medal of Honor candidate who died in the war. However, the case and soldier in question are a political hot potato--Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) is America's first female soldier to be killed in combat.|
Serling soon finds discrepancies in the case of a downed Medevac helicopter in the rocky Kuwait territory. What unfolds in flashback are several versions of Walden's tactics (a la Kurosawa's Rashomon) to rescue the soldiers and survive the downing. As with Glory, Director Edward Zwick's cast of unknown and famous faces always comes off as the real article. Walden's crew is especially convincing. Matt Damon as the medic comes off as the giddy scaredy-cat when telling his story to Washington. In battle he's a flawed, humorous soldier. The most surprising work in the movie is done by Lou Diamond Phillips (as the group's gunman), whose career had been headed to straight-to-video oblivion.
Then there's Ryan. She has done well with dramatic work in the past (When a Man Loves a Woman, Flesh and Bone) but has never been able to escape the romantic-comedy image. With dyed hair, a light accent, and the dramatics of the situation, Ryan finally has an enduring dramatic film. Even though she has half of Washington's screen time , her brave and ultimately haunting performance makes Courage something special, right down to its curious but rewarding final scene. --Doug Thomas
|A model for dozens of action films to follow, this box-office hit from \ 1967 refined a die-hard formula that has become overly familiar, but it's rarely been handled better than it was in this action-packed World War II thriller. Lee Marvin is perfectly cast as a down-but-not-out army major who is offered a shot at personal and professional redemption. If he can successfully train and discipline a squad of army rejects, misfits, killers, prisoners, and psychopaths into a first-rate unit of specialized soldiers, they'll earn a second chance to make up for their woeful misdeeds. Of course, there's a catch: to obtain their pardons, Marvin's band of badmen must agree to a suicide mission that will parachute them into the danger zone of Nazi-occupied France. It's a hazardous path to glory, but the men have no other choice than to accept and regain their lost honor. What makes The Dirty Dozen special is its phenomenal cast including Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, Jim Brown, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, and others. Cassavetes is the Oscar-nominated standout as one of Marvin's most rebellious yet heroic men, but it's the whole ensemble--combined with the hard-as-nails direction of Robert Aldrich--that makes this such a high-velocity crowd pleaser. The script by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller (from the novel by E.M. Nathanson) is strong enough to support the all-star lineup with ample humor and military grit, so if you're in need of a mainline jolt of testosterone, The Dirty Dozen is the movie for you. --Jeff Shannon|
|Like Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates opens with a pivotal event of World War II--the German invasion of Stalingrad--re-created in epic scale, as ill-trained Russian soldiers face German attack or punitive execution if they flee from the enemy's advance. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud captures this madness with urgent authenticity, creating a massive context for a more intimate battle waged amid the city's ruins. Embellished from its basis in fact, the story shifts to an intense cat-and-mouse game between a Russian shepherd raised to iconic fame and a German marksman whose skill is unmatched in its lethal precision. Vassily Zaitzev (Jude Law) has been sniping Nazis one bullet at a time, while the German Major Konig (Ed Harris) has been assigned to kill Vassily and spare Hitler from further embarrassment.|
There's love in war as Vassily connects with a woman soldier (Rachel Weisz), but she is also loved by Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), the Soviet officer who promotes his friend Vassily as Russia's much-needed hero. This romantic rivalry lends marginal interest to the central plot, but it's not enough to make this a classic war film. Instead it's a taut, well-made suspense thriller isolated within an epic battle, and although Annaud and cowriter Alain Godard (drawing from William Craig's book and David L. Robbins's novel The War of the Rats) fail to connect the parallel plots with any lasting impact, the production is never less than impressive. Highly conventional but handled with intelligence and superior craftsmanship, this is warfare as strategic entertainment , without compromising warfare as a manmade hell on Earth. --Jeff Shannon
|Stanley Kubrick's 1987, penultimate film seemed to a lot of people to be contrived and out of touch with the '80s vogue for such intensely realistic portrayals of the Vietnam War as Platoon and The Deer Hunter. Certainly, Kubrick gave audiences plenty of reason to wonder why he made the film at all: essentially a two-part drama that begins on a Parris Island boot camp for rookie Marines and abruptly switches to Vietnam (actually shot on sound stages and locations near London), Full Metal Jacket comes across as a series of self-contained chapters in a story whose logical and thematic development is oblique at best. Then again, much the same was said about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a masterwork both enthralled with and satiric about the future's role in the unfinished business of human evolution. In a way, Full Metal Jacket is the wholly grim counterpart of 2001. While the latter is a truly 1960s film, both wide-eyed and wary, about the intertwining of progress and isolation (ending in our redemption, finally, by death), Full Metal Jacket is a cynical, Bush-era view of the 1960s' hunger for experience and consciousness that fulfilled itself in violence. Lee Ermey made film history as the Marine drill instructor whose ritualized debasement of men in the name of tribal uniformity creates its darkest angel in a murderous half-wit (Vincent D'Onofrio). Matthew Modine gives a smart and savvy performance as Private Joker, the clowning, military journalist who yearns to get away from the propaganda machine and know firsthand the horrific revelation of the front line. In Full Metal Jacket, depravity and fulfillment go hand in hand, and it's no wonder Kubrick kept his steely distance from the material to make the point. --Tom Keogh|
|When John Travolta first opens his mouth during the opening credits of The General's Daughter and speaks in a terrible Southern cracker drawl, one briefly hopes that the movie will turn out to be just as hilariously bad. Unfortunately, the accent is soon revealed to be part of a disguise, and the movie is just as quickly unveiled as a clumsy, run-of-the-mill potboiler. A female officer is discovered strangled and tied to the ground; she's the title character, and because of the general's political ambitions, the mystery of who did it and why has to be wrapped up in 36 hours by Travolta and fellow CID officer Madeleine Stowe (Last of the Mohicans, 12 Monkeys). Sexual violence and lurid S&M have been thrown in to shore up the incomprehensible plot, but that only adds to the queasy atmosphere. The supporting actors--an impressive collection including James Woods (Salvador), Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People), and James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential)--don't embarrass themselves, but even they can't make sense of their blustering, macho dialogue. It's amazing that screenwriter William Goldman (who wrote such great and genuinely thrilling films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, All the President's Men, and Misery) left his name attached to this script; there's no sign of his usual skill and intelligence. Madeleine Stowe, a graceful presence in any film, is equally wasted. Directed with a lot of empty flash by Simon West (Con Air). --Bret Fetzer|
|A big-budget summer epic with money to burn and a scale worthy of its golden Hollywood predecessors, Ridley Scott's Gladiator is a rousing, grisly, action-packed epic that takes moviemaking back to the Roman Empire via computer- generated visual effects. While not as fluid as the computer work done for, say, Titanic, it's an impressive achievement that will leave you marveling at the glory that was Rome, when you're not marveling at the glory that is Russell Crowe. Starring as the heroic general Maximus, Crowe firmly cements his star status both in terms of screen presence and acting chops, carrying the film on his decidedly non-computer-generated shoulders as he goes from brave general to wounded fugitive to stoic slave to gladiator hero. Gladiator's plot is a whirlwind of faux-Shakespearean machinations of death, betrayal, power plays, and secret identities (with lots of faux- Shakespearean dialogue ladled on to keep the proceedings appropriately "classical"), but it's all briskly shot, edited, and paced with a contemporary sensibility. Even the action scenes, somewhat muted but graphic in terms of implied violence and liberal bloodletting, are shot with a veracity that brings to mind--believe it or not--Saving Private Ryan, even if everyone is wearing a toga. As Crowe's nemesis, the evil emperor Commodus, Joaquin Phoenix chews scenery with authority, whether he's damning Maximus's popularity with the Roman mobs or lusting after his sister Lucilla (beautiful but distant Connie Nielsen); Oliver Reed, in his last role, hits the perfect notes of camp and gravitas as the slave owner who rescues Maximus from death and turns him into a coliseum star. Director Scott's visual flair is abundantly in evidence, with breathtaking shots and beautiful (albeit digital) landscapes, but it's Crowe's star power that will keep you in thrall--he's a true gladiator, worthy of his legendary status. Hail the conquering hero! --Mark Englehart|
|It seemed like a pretty good career move, and for the most part it was. Demi Moore will never top any rational list of great actresses, but as her career stalled in the mid-1990s she had enough internal fire and external physicality to be just right for her title role in G.I. Jane. Her character's name isn't Jane--it's Jordan O'Neil- -but the fact that she lacks a penis makes her an immediate standout in her elite training squad of Navy SEALs. She's been recruited as the first female SEAL trainee through a series of backroom political maneuvers, and must prove her military staying power against formidable odds--not the least of which is the abuse of a tyrannical master chief (Viggo Mortensen) who puts her through hell to improve her chances of success. Within the limitations of a glossy star vehicle, director Ridley Scott manages to incorporate the women-in-military issue with considerable impact, and Moore--along with her conspicuous breast enhancements and that memorable head-shaving scene--jumps into the role with everything she's got. Not a great movie by any means, but definitely a rousing crowd pleaser, and it's worth watching just to hear Demi shout the words "Suck my ----!!" (rhymes with "chick"). --Jeff Shannon|
|Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog) directed this comedy-drama about an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey (Robin Williams) whose manic, hilarious delivery from a studio in 1965 Saigon gives U.S. troops in the field a morale boost (while upsetting military brass). Based on the real-life experiences of deejay Adrian Cronauer, the film is actually more concept than story: put Williams in front of a microphone and let him go nuts. Still, the surrounding stuff about the influence upon Cronauer of the endless deaths among his listeners--as Cronauer tries to stay funny while feeling the mounting losses--is affecting. Williams got a much-deserved Oscar nomination for his work. --Tom Keogh|
|Anyone who fought in Vietnam can tell you that the war bore little resemblance to this propagandistic action film starring and codirected by John Wayne. But the film itself is not nearly as bad as its reputation would suggest; critics roasted its gung-ho politics while ignoring its merits as an exciting (if rather conventional and idealistic) war movie. Some notorious mistakes were made--in the final shot, the sun sets in the east!--and it's an awkward attempt to graft WWII heroics onto the Vietnam experience. But as the Duke's attempt to acknowledge the men who were fighting and dying overseas, it's a rousing film in which Wayne commands a regiment on a mission to kidnap a Viet Cong general. David Janssen plays a journalist who learns to understand Wayne's commitment to battling Communism, and Jim Hutton (Timothy's dad) plays an ill-fated soldier who adopts a Vietnamese orphan. In addition to its widescreen image, the digital video disc includes a promotional featurette and seven different theatrical trailers. --Jeff Shannon|
|This rousing, explosive 1961 WWII adventure, based on Alistair MacLean's thrilling novel, turns the war thriller into a deadly caper film. Gregory Peck heads a star-studded cast charged with a near impossible mission: destroy a pair of German guns nestled in a protective cave on the strategic Mediterranean island of Navarone, from where they can control a vital sea passage. As world famous mountain climber turned British army Captain Mallory, Peck leads a guerrilla force composed of the humanistic explosives expert, Miller (David Niven), the ruthless Greek patriot with a grudge, Stavros (Anthony Quinn), veteran special forces soldier Brown (Stanley Baker), and the cool, quiet young marksman Pappadimos (James Darren). This disparate collection of classic types must overcome internal conflicts, enemy attacks, betrayal, and capture to complete their mission. Director J. Lee Thompson sets a driving pace for this exciting (if familiar) military operation, a succession of close calls, pitched battles, and last-minute escapes as our heroes infiltrate the garrisoned town with the help of resistance leader Maria (Irene Papas) and plot their entry into the heavily guarded mountain fort. Carl Foreman's screenplay embraces MacLean's role call of clichés and delivers them with style, creating one of the liveliest mixes of espionage, combat, and good old-fashioned military derring-do put on film. In 1978, the sequel Force 10 from Navarone was released, but MacLean fans will prefer to check out the action-packed thriller Where Eagles Dare. --Sean Axmaker |
Additional features: This special-edition DVD gives the modern-day viewer a taste of what movies were like in 1961. Four curious featurettes are included, produced as publicity for the film. James Darren narrates a little ditty at his honeymoon in Malta during filming; Irene Papas narrates a giddy, old-fashioned look at "Two Girls on the Town." There's even a filmed bit with producer-writer Carl Foreman that showed once at the premiere. The 20-minute retrospective made in 1999 has the expected reminiscences from Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. Director J. Lee Thompson's audio commentary is a bit frustrating; he's now in his 80s, and most of his recollections are slow in coming. A historian could have brought out the film's history (it was the most expensive movie ever made at time of release) and produced a more vital viewing. --Doug Thomas
|Because it was released less than a year after Oliver Stone's Platoon and within months of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, this exceptionally well-made film about one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War was largely overshadowed and overlooked. It's a pity, because in some respects this is the best of the Vietnam films of the late 1980s, at least in terms of the everyday authenticity it depicts. Stripped clean of dramatically extraneous narrative, the movie opts instead for a straightforward approach to its day-by-day account of one of the war's costliest victories--a deadly siege on Hill 937 in the Ashau Valley, where soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division engaged the enemy over the course of eleven brutal assaults between May 10th and 20th, 1969. The film specifically follows the 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, a mixture of "new guys" and battle-weary "short-timers" who fought against terrifying odds and suffered a 70% casualty rate. From first scene to last, Hamburger Hill traces the rise and fall of their battle experience, from the horror of firefights to the camaraderie of men who've faced death and survived. Racial tensions flare and subside, trusts are established, and courage emerges from unexpected places. Through it all, writer Jim Carabatsos and director John Irvin maintain a purity of focus that pays tribute to the soldier's life without promoting false patriotism or gung-ho theatrics. In addition, the film features a cast full of talented and well-known actors in the early stages of their careers, including Dylan McDermott (from the TV series "The Practice") and Don Cheadle, before gaining fame in Devil in a Blue Dress and Boogie Nights. --Jeff Shannon|
|This is one of the best submarine movies I've seen. The plot of the movie is that a new Russian submarine, the "Red October", has been completed and has been launched into the North Atlantic. It is equipped with a special reactor which makes it virtually silent. The Americans fear that the submarine is going to sail across the Atlantic and fire its ICBMs at the United States. Sean Connery gives a first rate performance as Marko Ramius, the captain of the "Red October". He looks exactly how I'd picture a Russian sub skipper, and he even speaks fluent Russian throughout the film. James Earl Jones stars as an American Admiral who has the information about the "Red October". He calls on Alec Baldwin (Jack Ryan) to confirm the information. Baldwin gives an excellent performance as Ryan. He takes a nasty helicopter ride to the submarine USS Dallas, who is captained by actor Scott Glenn. There, they follow the "Red October", who Ryan believes is trying to defect instead of attack. Ramius concocts a plan to remove his crew and then tells them he's going to scuttle his ship when in reality Ryan and the Dallas are going to help with the defection. Another Russian submarine makes this a sticky situation for both Ryan and Ramius. In the end, we see the "Red October" sailing up a river in the United States, with Ramius and Ryan on the bridge. First class acting and edge-of-your-seat action make this film worthy of viewing many times over. -- Jeffrey T. Munson|
|Based on a true story of a Russian nuclear submarine and an incident that could have sparked an all-out nuclear war, this is a truly exciting film. Five years in the researching and making, it brings the viewer back to 1961 and the world of the Soviet Navy. This was the height of the cold war and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were in an arms race. Both had nuclear power and war was indeed a possibility.|
Harrison Ford is cast as the strong willed captain of the ship; Liam Neeson is the Executive Officer in charge. Ford is tough and pushes the men hard, exposing them to danger in order to create loyalty and make them a team. Neeson, who was the original captain and was replaced by Neeson, is more cautious. There is constant conflict between these two men regarding command decisions. And then, an accident happens. There's a leak in a nuclear reactor and it has to be repaired.
From the very first frame of the film I was on the edge of my seat. The tension kept getting stronger and never let up. I couldn't stop watching and the 138 minutes of the film just flew. I learned about submarines, nuclear power, and the devastating effects of radiation poisoning. I also got to know the two strong leaders as well as their crew and felt real emotion over their dilemma. It is a story of heroism and courage. And the fact that is true makes it even more exciting.
The only thing that didn't seem authentic was that it was in English and the men spoke with Russian accents. But after I got used to that, I was completely involved in the high drama of the story. The acting was excellent. And I have nothing but praise for the director, Kathryn Bigelow and the special effects and cinematography. I felt I was right there.
Later, I watched all special features. It was fascinating to learn about way an old Russian submarine was actually restored and refitted to match the exact specifications of the real one. It was also fascinating to see all the time and effort it takes to show one short scene of the submarine rising through the ice. These features were a welcome addition to the DVD and really enhanced my experience of the film.
This is a scary film. And there's much to learn from it. I loved it and give it my highest recommendation. -- Linda Linguvic
|The Longest Day is Hollywood's definitive D-day movie. More modern accounts such as Saving Private Ryan are more vividly realistic, but producer Darryl F. Zanuck's epic 1962 account is the only one to attempt the daunting task of covering that fateful day from all perspectives. From the German high command and front-line officers to the French Resistance and all the key Allied participants, the screenplay by Cornelius Ryan, based on his own authoritative book, is as factually accurate as possible. The endless parade of stars (John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, and Richard Burton, to name a few) makes for an uneasy mix of verisimilitude and Hollywood star-power, however, and the film falls a little flat for too much of its three-hour running time. But the set-piece battles are still spectacular, and if the landings on Omaha Beach lack the graphic gore of Private Ryan they nonetheless show the sheer scale and audacity of the invasion. --Mark Walker|
|As the triumphant start of a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring leaves you begging for more. By necessity, Peter Jackson's ambitious epic compresses J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings, but this robust adaptation maintains reverent allegiance to Tolkien's creation, instantly qualifying as one of the greatest fantasy films ever made. At 178 minutes, it's long enough to establish the myriad inhabitants of Middle-earth, the legendary Rings of Power, and the fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans--led by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the brave hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood)--who must battle terrifying forces of evil on their perilous journey to destroy the One Ring in the land of Mordor. Superbly paced, the film is both epic and intimate, offering astonishing special effects and production design while emphasizing the emotional intensity of Frodo's adventure. Ending on a perfect note of heroic loyalty and rich anticipation, this wondrous fantasy continues in The Two Towers (2002). --Jeff Shannon|
|Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship continue their quest to destroy the One Ring and stand against the evil of the dark lord Sauron. The Fellowship has divided and now find themselves taking different paths to defeating Sauron and his allies. Their destinies now lie at two towers - Orthanc Tower in Isengard, where the corrupted wizard Saruman waits and Sauron's fortress at Baraddur, deep within the dark lands of Mordor.|
|An inspiring and well-acted saga based on the life of Carl Brashear, the U.S. Navy's first African-American diver. The always good Cuba Gooding, Jr. deftly handles the role of Brashear, who overcomes bigotry -- i.e. blatant attempts to have him flunked out of diving school -- while rising through the ranks, eventually achieving elite status. Brashear's perseverance is nothing short of amazing. Nothing, not even a horrible accident which results in the amputation of his right leg, can stop this steely-eyed hero from reaching his goals. Robert DeNiro is absolutely wicked as the hate-spewing Master Chief Billy Sunday. An embittered ex-diver grounded for health reasons, Sunday battles inner-racist demons before eventually embracing Brashear and his tenacious work ethic. In typical Hollywood fashion, "Men of Honor" is occasionally over-sentimental. In fact, that is the film's sole flaw. Overall, however, this is a remarkable tale of one man's refusal to let the feeble minds of others stand in the way of his dreams.|
|When I saw the previews for this film, I decided that this was a must-see summer movie. What with the disappointing (yet visually exciting) releases of Mission:Impossible 2 and X-Men, I was expecting a film that would surpass the other summer movies and surprise the viewers with a story that would capture and involve the audience while pleasing them with exciting visuals. Well, I guess it's time to wait until Mel tries again with a different movie based around a different premise. This movie was better the first time when it was called Braveheart. Although there were several new elements thrown in, the scene with Mel refusing to fight, the death of family members, and the riding with the troops carrying the flag was eerily similar to the movie that captured the academy awards for best director and best picture for Mel Gibson in 1995. I'm not saying that M:I 2 and X-Men were bad movies, but the stories were somewhat short of what movies should be coming with. Then again, These movies were pure eye candy...and so is The Patriot. The difference is, The Patriot makes you feel really patriotic...if only for a minute. -- Jerry Kim|
|General George Patton was one of the greatest Americans. Period. That's why only a movie as good as this one could portray his greatness.|
Patton is a three hour epic about the eccentric military genius, played by the great George C. Scott. This is a typical "man movie," filled with exciting action shots and plenty of bravado. George C. Scott's Patton is charismatic, a bit crazy, and incredibly inspiring. The film is very informative, and it solidifies General Patton's reputation as the only military commander feared and respected by the Nazis.
I didn't know much about Patton before watching this, but I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of him now. The producers of the film set out to make this a biopic about General Patton and his colorful personality. What resulted from their efforts, however, was a movie that glorified war more than any movie could. Don't expect it to be like Saving Private Ryan, it's more of a romanticized look at one individual and a bygone era.
The DVD contains plenty of special features, including previews of other Fox war movies and a "making of" video. I particularly enjoyed watching that, because of Oliver Stone's funny argument that "Patton" was the direct cause for the invasion of Cambodia.
If you're looking for history films, look no further than Patton. It's quite a long film, but it takes that long to give justice to a man like General Patton. -- Mark
|To call Pearl Harbor a throwback to old-time war movies is something of an understatement. Director Michael Bay's epic take on the bombing that brought the United States into World War II hijacks every war movie situation and cliché (some affectionate, some stale) you've ever seen and gives them a shiny, glossy spin until the whole movie practically gleams. Planes glisten, water sparkles, trees beckon--and Bay's re-creation of the bombing itself, a 30-minute sequence that's tightly choreographed and amazingly photographed, sets the action movie bar up quite a few notches. And in updating the classic war film, Bay and screenwriter Randall Wallace (Braveheart) use that old plot standby, the love triangle--this time, it's between two pilots (Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett) and a nurse (Kate Beckinsale) who find themselves stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, during what they thought would be a nice, sunny tour of duty. Then, of course, history intervened. |
For the first 90 minutes of the movie, Affleck and Beckinsale find a nice, appealing chemistry that plays on his strengths as a movie star and hers as a serious actress--he gives her glamour, she gives him smarts. Their truncated romance--the beginning of which is told in flashback so we can get right to the point where he has to leave her to go to England--works, thanks to their charm. They're no Kate and Leo from Titanic (a strategy the film strives hard toward), but they're pretty darn adorable in their own right. Hartnett, as the not entirely unwelcome third wheel, squints bravely but makes only a slight dent in the film. Everyone else in Pearl Harbor--from Cuba Gooding Jr.'s brave navy seaman to Jon Voight's able impersonation of FDR--is pretty much a glorified walk-on, taking a backseat to the pyrotechnics and action sequences that keep the three-hour film in fairly constant motion. But when that action does take hold, Pearl Harbor is quite a thrilling ride. --Mark Englehart
I really didn't like the movie. It was hyped as a WWII flick, but ended up being a poorly made military movie, and a better "love story"
|Platoon put writer-turned-director Oliver Stone on the Hollywood map; it is still his most acclaimed and effective film, probably because it is based on Stone's firsthand experience as an American soldier in Vietnam. Chris (Charlie Sheen) is an infantryman whose loyalty is tested by two superior officers: Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), a former hippie humanist who really cares about his men (this was a few years before he played Jesus in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ), and Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), a moody, macho soldier who may have gone over to the dark side. The personalities of the two sergeants correspond to their combat drugs of choice--pot for Elias and booze for Barnes. Stone has become known for his sledgehammer visual style, but in this film it seems perfectly appropriate. His violent and disorienting images have a terrifying immediacy, a you-are-there quality that gives you a sense of how things may have felt to an infantryman in the jungles of Vietnam. Platoon won Oscars for best picture and director. --Jim Emerson|
|Director William Friedkin knows a thing or two about staging harrowing action sequences, and if you don't believe that, you've never seen The French Connection or To Live and Die in L.A. He comes through niftily in this film as well, with an opening Vietnam battle sequence that sets the stage for the rest of the story, and then with the central moment in the film: a rescue mission involving Marines extricating the American ambassador from an embassy surrounded by hostile protesters in Yemen. Unfortunately, Friedkin can't do much about the implausible plot that follows, in which the Marine commander, played by the always-terrific Samuel L. Jackson, is accused of slaughtering innocent civilians (who actually were shooting at him and his men). He must rely on an old Marine buddy--a lawyer played by Tommy Lee Jones--to get him through the jury-rigged court martial. But the central premise--that an evil presidential aide would perjure himself and destroy evidence simply to maintain good relations with U.S. allies in the Middle East, rather than defending a highly decorated Marine colonel who risked his life--is inevitably hard to swallow. And the ending is even flimsier. --Marshall Fine|
|When Steven Spielberg was an adolescent, his first home movie was a backyard war film. When he toured Europe with Duel in his 20s, he saw old men crumble in front of headstones at Omaha Beach. That image became the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, his film of a mission following the D-day invasion that many have called the most realistic--and maybe the best--war film ever. With 1998 production standards, Spielberg has been able to create a stunning, unparalleled view of war as hell. We are at Omaha Beach as troops are slaughtered by Germans yet overcome the almost insurmountable odds. |
A stalwart Tom Hanks plays Captain Miller, a soldier's soldier, who takes a small band of troops behind enemy lines to retrieve a private whose three brothers have recently been killed in action. It's a public relations move for the Army, but it has historical precedent dating back to the Civil War. Some critics of the film have labeled the central characters stereotypes. If that is so, this movie gives stereotypes a good name: Tom Sizemore as the deft sergeant, Edward Burns as the hotheaded Private Reiben, Barry Pepper as the religious sniper, Adam Goldberg as the lone Jew, Vin Diesel as the oversize Private Caparzo, Giovanni Ribisi as the soulful medic, and Jeremy Davies, who as a meek corporal gives the film its most memorable performance.
The movie is as heavy and realistic as Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List, but it's more kinetic. Spielberg and his ace technicians (the film won five Oscars: editing (Michael Kahn), cinematography (Janusz Kaminski), sound, sound effects, and directing) deliver battle sequences that wash over the eyes and hit the gut. The violence is extreme but never gratuitous. The final battle, a dizzying display of gusto, empathy, and chaos, leads to a profound repose. Saving Private Ryan touches us deeper than Schindler because it succinctly links the past with how we should feel today. It's the film Spielberg was destined to make. --Doug Thomas
|Before there was "Saving Private Ryan", the most graphic and visceral cinematic battlefield carnage was depicted in "Stalingrad". Ironically, the raw realism which drew rave reviews for SPR had elicited little more than horror and negativity for "Stalingrad". I'm not a sadistic guts'n'gore affictionado, but war is brutal and needs to be presented in an unsanitized manner. "Stalingrad" has been, and remains, my favorite war film. It is from the German producers of "Das Boot", and presents the point of view of the common Wehrmacht soldiers of Paulus' 6th Army, who were abandoned to freeze or be slaughtered in the bombed-out ruins of the city named for Stalin. Neither the Germans nor the Russians are portrayed as heroes or supermen in this film; there is only the desperation of fighters who are forbidden retreat. The anti-Nazi views of the producers are well-known, and occasionally a bit heavy-handed, but there is an admirable attempt to stick to realism. Even the Russians are presented accurately: from the presence of the female corpsman (yes, there were thousands of Russian women combatants at Stalingrad), to the playing of the phonograph song Temnaya Noch', to Stalin's cruel Edict that "there are no POW's -- only deserters". The tense ceasefires to allow tending of the wounded are also historically accurate, and are documented in various memoirs. The T-34 tank model depicted is, unfortunately, an anacronism. But the hand-to-hand fighting through the rubble of the buildings, streets, and sewers is realistic. As is the freezing Russian winter which sapped the energy and morale of the stranded Germans reduced to scurrying like rats and eating their own horses. From the cavalier attitudes of the would-be conquerers on the train to the desperation of the hordes of would-be escapees at the airport, this film takes us along with these German soldiers, allowing us to sympathize with their plight and even form a certain detached liking for them. The futility of their campaign haunts the poignant, sorrowful ending of the film (one can't call it a climax), as Russia Herself swallows her violators. -- Chapulina R|
|It's not easy replacing Harrison Ford as a beloved screen hero, but Ben Affleck brings fresh vitality to The Sum of All Fears, reviving Paramount's Tom Clancy franchise in the role Ford made famous. As CIA agent Jack Ryan, Affleck is a rookie in the covert ranks, unraveling a plot that lures Russian and American superpowers into a nuclear standoff, while a neofascist faction turns most of Baltimore into an atomic wasteland and holds the world in the grip of a terrorist nightmare. Affleck combines sharp intelligence with a new-guy's perspective, while a senior agent (Morgan Freeman) passes the torch of back-channel authority. The result is one of the best Clancy films to date, ably helmed by Phil Alden Robinson (whose comic thriller Sneakers was sorely underrated) with a stellar supporting cast, and adapted with abundant humor, humanity, and thrills by Donnie Brasco screenwriter Paul Attanasio and cowriter Daniel Pyne. Even the typically reticent Clancy would approve. --Jeff Shannon|
|While it offers nothing new to the military action genre, Tears of the Sun distinguishes itself with fine acting, expert craftsmanship, and seriousness of purpose. Its familiar "extraction mission" plot is essentially similar to that of Black Hawk Down, involving a crack team of U.S. Special Ops commandos struggling to rescue innocent missionaries amidst the bloody horror of Nigerian ethnic cleansing. With Bruce Willis as their grizzled, no-nonsense commander, the skillful team enters a hot zone that gets even hotter when their "package"--an American national (Monica Bellucci) who runs the isolated mission--demands that 70 Nigerian villagers be included in the rescue. Willis's uneasy conscience leads him to defy orders and expand his mission, and in an ambitious follow up to Training Day, director Antoine Fuqua escalates tension and strike-force with considerable emotional impact. Originally considered as a potential entry in Willis's Die Hard series, and released on the eve of America's war with Iraq, Tears of the Sun admirably avoids jingoism with its rousing story of personal good vs. political evil. --Jeff Shannon |
Almost a Prequel to Black Hawk Down. Watching this movie may give you a better understanding of the involvement in Somalia.
|One of the cinema's great disappearing acts came to a close with the release of The Thin Red Line in late 1998. Terrence Malick, the cryptic recluse who withdrew from Hollywood visibility after the release of his visually enthralling masterpiece Days of Heaven (1978), returned to the director's chair after a 20-year coffee break. Malick's comeback vehicle is a fascinating choice: a wide-ranging adaptation of a World War II novel (filmed once before, in 1964) by James Jones. The battle for Guadalcanal Island gives Malick an opportunity to explore nothing less than the nature of life, death, God, and courage. Let that be a warning to anyone expecting a conventional war flick; Malick proves himself quite capable of mounting an exciting action sequence, but he's just as likely to meander into pure philosophical noodling--or simply let the camera contemplate the first steps of a newly birthed tropical bird, the sinister skulk of a crocodile. This is not especially an actors' movie-- some faces go by so quickly they barely register--but the standouts are bold: Nick Nolte as a career-minded colonel, Elias Koteas as a deeply spiritual captain who tries to protect his men, Ben Chaplin as a G.I. haunted by lyrical memories of his wife. The backbone of the film is the ongoing discussion between a wry sergeant (Sean Penn) and an ethereal, almost holy private (newcomer Jim Caviezel). The picture's sprawl may be a result of Malick's method of "finding" a film during shooting and editing, and in some ways The Thin Red Line seems vaguely, intriguingly incomplete. Yet it casts a spell like almost nothing else of its time, and Malick's visionary images are a challenge and a signpost to the rest of his filmmaking generation. --Robert Horton|
|When released in December 2000, Thirteen Days was pummeled for taking liberties with the facts of the Cuban missile crisis and smothering its compelling drama with phony Boston accents by its primary stars. More tolerant critics hailed it as one of the year's best films, and that's the opinion to believe for anyone who enjoys taut, intelligent political thrillers. For those too young to relate directly to the timeless urgency of the crisis that played out over 13 days in October 1962, Thirteen Days joins the classic TV treatment The Missiles of October (1973) as an intense and thought-provoking study of leadership under pressure.|
The film (and costar-coproducer Kevin Costner) drew criticism for fictionally enhancing the White House role of presidential aide Kenneth O'Donnell, but while Costner's Boston accent may be grating, his fine performance as O' Donnell offers expert witness to the crisis, its nerve-wracking escalation, and the efforts of John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp) to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Russia. While Soviet missiles approach operational status in Cuba, director Roger Donaldson (who directed Costner in No Way Out) cuts to exciting U.S. Navy flights over the missile site, ramping up the tension that history itself provided. Donaldson's occasional use of black and white is self-consciously distracting, and he's further guilty of allowing a shrillness (along with repetitive, ominous shots of nuclear explosions) to invade the urgency of David Self's screenplay. Still, as Hollywood history lessons go, Thirteen Days is riveting stuff. You may find yourself wondering what might happen if reality presented a repeat scenario under less intelligent leadership. --Jeff Shannon
The first DVD released with the "Infinifilm" label, Thirteen Days is the perfect vehicle for the extensive extras loaded on this single disc. If you enable the Infinifilm feature, a pop-up window will appear every few minutes during the film. Select one of the options and you're whisked away for a 30-second to three-minute feature on numerous topics relating to the onscreen action, including documentary footage of the actual events described in the film, cast and crew interviews, a making-of feature on the film, filmographies, deleted scenes, and historical biographies. (All the special features are also available in their entirety in the Special Features area of the disc.) Each segment is labeled with its length, and when the feature is done, you are automatically returned to the same point in the film. It's a nice way to take a second, more in-depth look at the movie. Historians, news broadcasters, and even Khrushchev's son lend their voices to one commentary track, which also includes historic speeches. The other commentary track includes key filmmakers and insights from producer-actor Kevin Costner. The short deconstruction of the jet-flyover special effects is superb, as is the subtitle option that offers historical text about the onscreen action that can be engaged with or without the Infinifilm mode. --Doug Thomas
|Jingoism, beefcake, military hardware, and a Giorgio Moroder rock score reign supreme over taste and logic in this Tony Scott film about a maverick trainee pilot (Tom Cruise) who can't follow the rules at a Navy aviation training facility. The dogfight sequences between American and Soviet jets at the end are absolutely mechanical, though audiences loved it at the time. The love story between Cruise's character and that of Kelly McGillis is like flipping through pages of advertising in a glossy magazine. This designer action movie from 1986 would be all the more appalling were it not for the canny casting of good actors in dumb parts. Standouts include Anthony Edwards- -who makes a nice impression as Cruise's average-Joe pal--and the relatively unknown Meg Ryan in a small but memorable appearance. The DVD release has optional full-screen and widescreen presentations, optional French soundtrack, optional Spanish subtitles, and closed captioning. --Tom Keogh|
|"Sir, there's a large formation of planes coming in from the north, 140 miles, 3 degrees east." "Yeah? Don't worry about it." This is just one of the many mishaps chronicled in Tora! Tora! Tora! The epic film shows the bombing of Pearl Harbor from both sides in the historic first American-Japanese coproduction: American director Richard Fleischer oversaw the complicated production (the Japanese sequences were directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, after Akira Kurosawa withdrew from the film), wrestling a sprawling story with dozens of characters into a manageable, fairly easy-to-follow film. The first half maps out the collapse of diplomacy between the nations and the military blunders that left naval and air forces sitting ducks for the impending attack, while the second half is an amazing re-creation of the devastating battle. While Tora! Tora! Tora! lacks the strong central characters that anchor the best war movies, the real star of the film is the climactic 30-minute battle, a massive feat of cinematic engineering that expertly conveys the surprise, the chaos, and the immense destruction of the only attack by a foreign power on American soil since the Revolutionary war. The special effects won a well-deserved Oscar, but the film was shut out of every other category by, ironically, the other epic war picture of the year, Patton. --Sean Axmaker|
|Based on the book by Lt. Col. Harold Moore (ret.) and journalist Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers offers a dignified reminder that the Vietnam War yielded its own crop of American heroes. Departing from Hollywood's typically cynical treatment of the war, writer-director Randall Wallace focuses on the first engagement of American soldiers with the North Vietnamese enemy in November 1965. Moore (played with colorful nuance by Mel Gibson) and nearly 400 inexperienced troopers from the U.S. Air Cavalry were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers, and the film re-creates this brutal firefight with graphic authenticity, while telling the parallel story of grieving army wives back home. While UPI reporter Galloway (Barry Pepper) risks his life to chronicle the battle, Wallace offers a balanced (though somewhat fictionalized) perspective while eliciting laudable performances from an excellent cast. Like the best World War II dramas of the 1940s, We Were Soldiers pays tribute to brave men while avoiding the pitfalls of propaganda.|
|This movie focuses on a sad chapter in the history of the U.S Army in World War II. The Hurtgen Forest was a deathtrap the could have more or less been bypassed. Certainly a low point in the annals of command, though through no fault of the G.I.s involved. This movie made a point to bring out the frustration and waste experienced by the men of the 28th Inf. Div. in that campaign. I think Spielberg set a new standard for the war movie genre with Saving Private Ryan. So far, When Trumpets Fade is one of the few recent military movies to even come close to that standard. It's a shame that, being a made for cable release, it hasn't been seen by more people. The movie is technically very well done. Uniform and equipment portrayal is excellent. For those reviewers above who find fault with a G.I. wearing his watch cap backwards, try wearing one under an M-1 helmet sometime. It's more comfy turned backwards I assure you. The only thing the movie couldn't represent, being filmed in Hungary, was the true geography of the Kall River Valley, which is much worse than shown on the film. Having hiked the Kall Trail quite a bit, it's a rough walk. Hats off as well to my fellow US military members, stationed in Hungary, that played extras in the film. A very well made movie that they can be proud to have participated in -- MSG Patrick King|
|Having earned Hollywood's respect with blockbusters like Face/Off and Mission: Impossible 2, Hong Kong action master John Woo lends his signature style to serious World War II action in Windtalkers. Recognizing the long- forgotten contribution of Navajo "code talkers," whose use of an unbreakable Navajo-language radio code was instrumental in defeating the Japanese, the film serves as an admirable tribute to those Native American heroes. Unfortunately, it falls short of importance with its standard-issue story about a battle-scarred sergeant (Nicolas Cage) assigned to protect a code-talker (Adam Beach, from Smoke Signals), with unspoken orders to kill him if Japanese capture is imminent. This allows for an involving drama of hard-won friendship, but cardboard supporting characters suffer in the shadow of nonstop action that's as repetitious as it is technically impressive. Windtalkers is best appreciated as a more substantial vehicle for Woo's trademark ballet of bullets. --Jeff Shannon|
|Same as above Plus:|
|Sir Jeremy Isaacs highly deserves the numerous awards for documentaries he has earned: the Royal Television Society's Desmond Davis Award, l'Ordre National du Merit, an Emmy, and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. His epic The World at War remains unsurpassed as the definitive visual history of World War II. |
The Second World War was different from other wars in thousands of ways, one of which was the unparalleled scope of visual documents kept by the Axis and Allies of all their activities. As a result, this war is understood as much through written histories as it is through its powerful images. The Nazis were particularly thorough in documenting even the most abhorrent of the atrocities they were committing--in a surprising amount of color footage. The World at War was one of the first television documentaries that exploited these resources so completely, giving viewers an unbelievable visual guide to the greatest event in the 20th century. This is to say nothing of the excellent, comprehensible narrative. Some highlights: