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Movie Reviews: War Movies

Updated on July 15, 2020


Director: Aaron Schneider
Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Elizabeth Shue
Plot: Allied destroyers escort supply ships against German U-boats through the dangerous Atlantic during WW2
Mood: Intense and takes you right in the middle of the action
Tags: Dogfight at sea,

Commander Ernst Krause (Tom Hanks) aboard the ship codenamed Greyhound leads a group of Allied destroyers to protect a convoy of supply ships towards England, past the dreaded Black Pit, that part of the Atlantic unreachable by air support where the thick of the battle against German subs happen. This is but a small part of the whole Battle of the Atlantic that ran from 1939 until the defeat of Germany and claimed thousands of lives and thousands of sea vessels. It is not based on a true story but adapted from a 1955 novel by C.S. Forester and directed by Aaron Schneider in only his second full-length feature. This is high seas action quite like nothing you’ve seen before. The cinematography and camera lend a claustrophobic feeling of witnessing the events first-hand with the story happening mostly on the bridge.

The Verdict: 8/10. Tom Hanks wrote the script and I was quite relieved that it isn’t the usual ship commander versus sub commander trying to outwit each other trope. This is just plain action that made my adrenaline run amok. I get the Jaws vibe here with the subs rising and sinking from the water like sharks hunting down their prey. And thank God there was none of the Michael Bay dramatics. Schneider’s framing and Shelly Johnson’s cinematography really give it a realistic feel.

THE HILL (1965)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ossie Davis, Ian Bannen, Ian Hendry, Roy Kinnear, Michael Redgrave
Plot: British soldiers stand up against brutality inside a Military prison in North Africa during WWII
Mood: Life in the British military prison is always on the double for trouble but at least they wear shorts
Tags: Sadistic guards, Cruel exercises, Defiant inmates

The Hill is no different from other prison movies that preceded it with characters that seemed to come from the same dossier: the brutish prison commander and his staff against the prisoners, one officer that bravely stands behind the men risking his career, the medical officer who is oblivious to what’s going on. Only, in The Hill, its not the Jerrys or the Japs, but their fellow comrade-in-arms that do the punishing. For the British army have no qualms for shooting deserters or cowards in combat, they surely have no problem going the distance in turning these despicable soldiers back into men as the tough-talking Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Andrews) believes so, a job he proudly upholds. And that distance comes in the form of a man made hill that the prisoners are made to climb back and forth until they lose consicousness. Quite expectedly, one of them dies as a result that led to mutinous acts by Joe Roberts (Connery), a fighting sergeant in the tank division incarcerated by hitting his commanding officer. The rest of the story plays out with increasing tension and drama.

The Verdict: 8/10. It’s Sidney Lumet and his direction of this play by Ray Rigby is masterful. Its got no less than James Bond (Connery did this in the middle of Goldfinger and Thunderball) in the lead and superbly fine performances from the rest of the crew, especially Harry Andrews and Ossie Davis. An underrated gem you should watch, chop chop.


Director: Ted Kotcheff
Cast: Gene Hackman, Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Patrick Swayze, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Tim Thomerson, Harold Sylvester, Robert Stack.
Plot: A retired Marine colonel hires a disparate group of Vietnam vets to rescue his son held captive in a POW camp in Laos
Mood: Fun in boot camp, the usual melodramatic heroics
Tags: Rescue Mission, Post-Vietnam, POW Camp

Like the standard POW rescue movie, Uncommon Valor follows the tried and tested formula: one man goes recruiting, they train, deploy, survey then infiltrate. It also has the usual characters with the token “expertise”(i.e. tunnel rat, bomb expert, pilot, et al) and features a stellar cast of character actors. This movie is so old school, the enemies still flail their arms when they get shot before falling down dead. It’s the 80s after all. That said, its not your thinking man’s war movie, its no Platoon or Full Metal Jacket, but rather looks like an extended episode of the A-Team (cue in exploding oil barrels). But hell, its just too damn enjoyable with plenty of mindless action. You got everything from blowing up bridges to sneak-up executions Fred Ward-style.

"Swayze, you better be not doing that Chippendale pose."
"Swayze, you better be not doing that Chippendale pose."

The Verdict: 6/10: For the action aficionado who just purchased a LaZBoy and have a full stack of beer in the fridge, it won’t disappoint.


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