Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham
Rating: NR (US) Running Time: 1 hr 28 min
Kubrick makes a war film based on a book about the French army trying to take back a key position from the Germans during World War I. A general sees his chance at glory by ordering Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) to launch an attack to capture it. Dax sees this plan as crazy but does his duty anyway. Unfortunately morale is low, and his men see the plan straight away as suicidal. They start to attack but then retreat and some don’t even leave the trench. What follows is a trial over blame and men getting condemned to cowardice.
Douglas gives a superb turn here in a expertly crafted film. The scenes are tight and powerful and the pacing is great. The events roll out and the horror of the situation mounts and mounts. It’s very tense and the situations get worse and worse – like Colonel Dax, you just want to boil over with indignant anger as we get to the very powerful finale. The end puts us through many emotions; outrage, sadness, love for mankind, hatred of mankind and the honouring of stoic bravery.
The film blisters with criticism of the army and how it handles itself. The hierarchy and the ridiculous pomposity of it all. War is dirty, grim, violent and disturbing – all shown here in the battle scenes that are very real and don’t flinch. The camera is masterful here, whether slowly spinning round large rooms and characters, panning for what feels likes miles over no-man’s land or floating down the trenches, Kubrick really chooses his placement well in his most assured handling yet. The subject is so sensational and dramatic the films holds up just as powerfully as ever and is an exceptional war movie – whilst also being a subversive anti-war movie.
A powerful story of bravery and injustice during World War I. Great battle scenes, great court scenes and just overall a superb hard-hitting film about the ugly nature of war – how a country will attack its own soldiers. Blistering stuff.
A big TV will do this film justice.
Best moment for me: << spoiler! >>
The firing squad scene is most vivid as it’s done in real-time. It’s painful all the more due to a scene preceding it where vital evidence is given that may affect the outcome, we don’t know if it will prevent the execution or not and the suspense is intense!