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Film Archive
Film Archive (N through T)
Organized Alphabetically by Title
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The Night of the Generals

The Night of the Generals (1967)
Director: Anatole Litvak
Long (148 minutes) military mystery set among the high command of Nazi Germany in occupied Poland and elsewhere in the Third Reich. A prostitute in wartime Warsaw has been brutally murdered and a German military investigator narrows his field of suspects to three German generals. But the war--and the sense of preening Prussian arrogance--interferes with his investigation, even as he begins to home in on the killer. Moodily sinister atmosphere and a strong cast (Peter O'Toole, Tom Courtenay, Omar Sharif, Christopher Plummer) can't overcome a plodding pace and a tendency to digress. --Marshall Fine


Nuremberg (2000)
Director: Yves Simoneau
The trial of Nazi war criminals following the Allied victory in Europe in World War II is dramatized in this uneven TV movie starring Alec Baldwin as Robert Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court justice who served as the chief prosecutor for the Allies. The gravity of the controversial concept of having a war crimes trial, and the political maneuvering between Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union that made it possible, is explained fairly well in the early portions of the film, even if Baldwin at times delivers lines that seem to have been lifted from a high school history textbook. Scenes of Nazi officers being rounded up and jailed are evocative, as are scenes of a ruined Germany. But a subplot involving Baldwin's character having an extramarital affair with his secretary, played by Jill Hennessy, seems utterly extraneous. Perhaps the intent was to show that even someone taking a moral stand on a global stage can be flawed, but Baldwin's Supreme Court justice faces no consequences from his infidelity. Baldwin dominates the courtroom scenes as the outraged prosecutor, while Hennessy has little to do beyond looking great in her 1940s wardrobe. And as the film progresses the brilliant performance of Brian Cox as Hermann Goering simply seizes all attention, as Hitler's deputy is uncannily portrayed as a brilliant manipulator to the very end. Nuremberg is consistently interesting, and to its credit it does contain much serious material on the Nazi war crimes, but it is in the end a flawed production. --Robert J. McNamara

Objective, Burma!

Objective, Burma! (1945)
Starring: Errol Flynn
Director: Raoul Walsh
A paratroop captain (Errol Flynn) sets out with a platoon to attack a Japanese outpost in the jungle. The Americans reach their target, take out the enemy with almost balletic precision, then gear up to return home. This feels like the point when a conventional war movie would have reached its action-filled climax, but the journey has only begun. Ahead lies one of the most arduous and agonizing adventures any World War II film ever offered, brilliantly directed by that underrated old master Raoul Walsh and photographed with almost tactile realism by the great James Wong Howe. The chief rap against Objective, Burma! (of concern mainly to British observers) is that it suggests that only U.S. forces contested the Japanese in the jungles of Burma. (OK, so it's not the most accurate history lesson.) But that's small beer in view of the movie's bone-chilling portrayal of pain, sacrifice, and endurance. The jungle atmosphere is so persuasive, you'd swear it was shot on the actual locations (though in fact Walsh effectively reworked many of the same situations in Distant Drums, a sort-of Western about the Seminole War, six years later). You'll never forget the terrifying last dark night on a mountainside--or the crocodiles.... Flynn is excellent (he had given his best performance ever in Walsh's Gentleman Jim three years earlier), and he's backed by a solid cast including Henry Hull (as an aging war correspondent), James Brown, William Prince, George Tobias, and Stephen Richards (soon to change his name to Mark Stevens). Incidentally, two of the writers, Alvah Bessie and Lester Cole, were later blacklisted; see if you can spot any Commie propaganda. --Richard T. Jameson

Operation Petticoat

Operation Petticoat (1959)
Cary Grant and Tony Curtis star as naval officers in this service comedy, one of the director's favorite genres. When Adm. Matt Sherman's (Grant) submarine, the Sea Tiger, is damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor, he needs to find spare parts to have it recommissioned. Into the breach steps aide Lt. Nick Holden (Curtis), a master con man and wheeler-dealer who begins scheming to acquire the materials needed to fix the sub while the appalled Sherman looks the other way. Once the sub is deemed seaworthy, they stop at an island where Holden picks up a couple of Filipino families and five navy nurses who have been stranded there. The arrival of the extremely attractive nurses in the sub's cramped quarters has the predicted effect on the young, all-male crew, who soon find concentrating on their work to be an impossible task. The women also have their own ideas about the renovation of the submarine, one of which involves painting it pink. Despite the dated 1950s gender stereotypes, the comic genius of Grant and the energy of Curtis, in addition to a script witty enough to have been nominated for an Academy Award, keep the film afloat. Among the talented cast are Dick Sargent, Arthur O'Connell, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, and Gavin McLeod, who would later return to the seas as the captain of THE LOVE BOAT.


O.S.S. (1946)
Ace Allied agents assemble an arsenal of anti-Nazi intelligence in occupied France, with a little romance and intrigue added in. Based on extensive research about the actual covert operations of the Office of Strategic Services.


Paisan (1948)
Starring: Carmela Sazio, Gar Moore
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Beginning with the sound of a gun being fired, PAISAN, Roberto Rossellini's excellent treatment of WW II Italy, is divided into six vignettes about life in the war and its consequences for people all over Italy. Using an English-language narrator, but including English, Italian, and German dialogue, the film is a tricky masterpiece of filming and storytelling, cowritten by Rossellini and Federico Fellini. The movie illustrates the way that war brought people together and made them understand each other in different ways--overcoming barriers of nationality, cultural and class difference, language, religion, and gender. Each of PAISAN's vignettes is captivating and enlightening while examining serious, sometimes harrowing, and often murderous war situations. In the first, an American soldier and a young Italian girl spend the night guarding the American barracks in the ruins of a castle by the sea, until they are attacked by German troops. In another vignette, an African American officer befriends a peasant boy, only to find himself unable to cope with the boy's poverty. In Rome, an Italian girl waits in the rain for an American soldier who promised to come for her at the beginning of the war; and, in one of the most brilliant and truly funny sequences in Italian film history, three American soldiers--one Protestant, one Jew, and one Catholic--share a religious visit with the monks of a conservative Italian monastery.


Patton (1970)
Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
One of the greatest screen biographies ever produced, this monumental film runs nearly three hours, won seven Academy Awards, and gave George C. Scott the greatest role of his career. It was released in 1970 when protest against the Vietnam War still raged at home and abroad, and many critics and moviegoers struggled to reconcile current events with the movie's glorification of Gen. George S. Patton as a crazy-brave genius of World War II.
How could a movie so huge in scope and so fascinated by its subject be considered an anti-war film? The simple truth is that it's not--Patton is less about World War II than about the rise and fall of a man whose life was literally defined by war, and who felt lost and lonely without the grand-scale pursuit of an enemy. George C. Scott embodies his role so fully, so convincingly, that we can't help but be drawn to and fascinated by Patton as a man who is simultaneously bound for hell and glory. The film's opening monologue alone is a masterful display of acting and character analysis, and everything that follows is sheer brilliance on the part of Scott and director Franklin J. Schaffner. Filmed on an epic scale at literally dozens of European locations, Patton does not embrace war as a noble pursuit, nor does it deny the reality of war as a breeding ground for heroes. Through the awesome achievement of Scott's performance and the film's grand ambition, Patton shows all the complexities of a man who accepted his role in life and (like Scott) played it to the hilt. --Jeff Shannon

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor (2001)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Michael Bay
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

The Pianist

The Pianist (2003)
Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann
Director: Roman Polanski
Winner of the prestigious Golden Palm award at the 2002 Cannes film festival, The Pianist is the film that Roman Polanski was born to direct. A childhood survivor of Nazi-occupied Poland, Polanski was uniquely suited to tell the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew and concert pianist (played by Adrien Brody) who witnessed the Nazi invasion of Warsaw, miraculously eluded the Nazi death camps, and survived throughout World War II by hiding among the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto. Unlike any previous dramatization of the Nazi holocaust, The Pianist steadfastly maintains its protagonist's singular point of view, allowing Polanski to create an intimate odyssey on an epic wartime scale, drawing a direct parallel between Szpilman's tenacious, primitive existence and the wholesale destruction of the city he refuses to abandon. Uncompromising in its physical and emotional authenticity, The Pianist strikes an ultimate note of hope and soulful purity. As with Schindler's List, it's one of the greatest films ever made about humanity's darkest chapter. --Jeff Shannon

PT 109

PT 109 (1963)
Starring: Cliff Robertson, Robert Culp
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
John F. Kennedy lived long enough to see this Hollywood account of his Navy career and his heroism following a ruthless attack by a Japanese ship on his small patrol craft. Cliff Robertson is an amiable choice to play Kennedy, though one won't find a lot of the late president's mannerisms in his performance. The key battle sequence, which finds Kennedy and his crew bloodied and battered while trying to stay alive in shark-infested waters, makes a big impression on young viewers. --Tom Keogh

Raid on Rommel

Raid on Rommel (1971)
Starring: Richard Burton, John Colicos
Director: Henry Hathaway

Retreat Hell

Retreat Hell (1952)
Director: Joseph H. Lewis

Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
Starring: Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster
Director: Robert Wise
A movie's lasting value can often be measured by its influence in the years and decades following its original release, and on that basis Run Silent, Run Deep is certainly a classic of sorts. It remains one of the seminal World War II submarine pictures, and its intelligent script and tautly executed action are clearly echoed in such later submarine dramas as Das Boot and especially Crimson Tide, which borrows liberally from this 1958 film. In one of his best and final roles (he appeared in only four films after this), Clark Gable plays a submarine captain without a command, having been saddled with a desk job after his previous ship was destroyed due to his overzealous pursuit of the enemy in dangerous Japanese waters. He finally gets another boat--this time with a vigilant first officer (Burt Lancaster), who stands poised to assume command if Gable puts his crew in unnecessary danger. The tension and mutual respect between these two principled men is superbly written and directed (Robert Wise was just two years away from his triumph with West Side Story), and the crucial inclusion of a strong supporting cast (including Jack Warden and Don Rickles) enhances the movie's compelling authenticity. Based on a novel by former submarine commander Edward L. Beach, Run Silent, Run Deep is rousing entertainment with the added benefit of paying honorable tribute to the men who navigated through the most frightening and claustrophobic channels of the Pacific theater. --Jeff Shannon

Sand of Iwo Jima

Sands of Iwo Jima (1950)
Starring: John Wayne, John Agar
Director: Allan Dwan
John Wayne's old studio home, Republic, made this 1949 drama about the heroic capture of an important island in the Pacific by marines in World War II. Director Allan Dwan (Brewster's Millions), a pioneering filmmaker from the silent days of cinema who easily crossed over into sound, handles the action sequences like a consummate pro, while Wayne works hard as the tough sergeant molding new recruits into fighters. John Agar plays a contentious surrogate son to Wayne, though the relationship is hardly the stuff of Red River. --Tom Keogh

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan (1999)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon
Director: Steven Spielberg
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

Schindler's List

Schindler's List (1993)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler's List that Spielberg called "the most satisfying experience of my career." Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg's masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It's a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its center--Catholic war profiteer Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked his life and went bankrupt to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps. By employing Jews in his crockery factory manufacturing goods for the German army, Schindler ensures their survival against terrifying odds. At the same time, he must remain solvent with the help of a Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and negotiate business with a vicious, obstinate Nazi commandant (Ralph Fiennes) who enjoys shooting Jews as target practice from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Schindler's List gains much of its power not by trying to explain Schindler's motivations, but by dramatizing the delicate diplomacy and determination with which he carried out his generous deeds. As a drinker and womanizer who thought nothing of associating with Nazis, Schindler was hardly a model of decency; the film is largely about his transformation in response to the horror around him. Spielberg doesn't flinch from that horror, and the result is a film that combines remarkable humanity with abhorrent inhumanity--a film that functions as a powerful history lesson and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the context of a living nightmare. --Jeff Shannon

The Seventh Cross

The Seventh Cross (1944)
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Signe Hasso
Director: Fred Zinnemann

Sink the Bismarck

Sink the Bismarck (1960)
Starring: Kenneth More, Dana Wynter
Director: Lewis Gilbert (II)
Sink the Bismarck! recounts one of the most famous battles in the history of naval warfare. Shot in semidocumentary style, the black-and-white film covers all sides in the famous hunt for the powerful German warship that terrorized the sea for eight days. The story and combat are rendered as faithfully as possible to C.S. Forester's novel. There are a few historical errors and some other minor liberties taken for dramatic license, both of which the viewer will easily be able to overlook. The only major addition to historical fact is a fictional romance between leads Kenneth More and Dana Wynter, which never gets in the way of the action. Edward R. Murrow cameos, and one of the founding fathers of movie magic, Howard Lydecker, assists with the special effects. The film is a compelling wartime drama that deserves a viewing. --Mark Savary

Ski Troop Attack

Ski Troop Attack (1960)
Director: Roger Corman

South Pacific

South Pacific (1958)
Starring: Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor
Director: Joshua Logan
The dazzling Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, brought to lush life by the director of the original stage version, Joshua Logan. Set on a remote island during the Second World War, South Pacific tracks two parallel romances: one between a Navy nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) "as corny as Kansas in August" and a wealthy French plantation owner (Rossano Brazzi), the other between a young American officer (John Kerr) and a native girl (France Nuyen). The theme of interracial love was still daring in 1958, and so was director Logan's decision to overlay emotional moments with tinted filters--a technique that misfires as often as it hits. The comic relief tends to fall flat, and an overly spunky Mitzi Gaynor is a poor substitute for the stage original's Mary Martin. But the location scenery on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is gorgeous, and the songs are among the finest in the American musical catalog: "Some Enchanted Evening," "Younger than Springtime," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," "This Nearly Was Mine." That's Juanita Hall as the sly native trader Bloody Mary, singing the haunting tune that launched a thousand tiki bars, "Bali H'ai." Based on stories from James Michener's book Tales from the South Pacific. --Robert Horton

Stalag 17

Stalag 17 (1953)
Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor
Director: Billy Wilder
Black comedy and suspenseful action inside a German POW camp during World War II--a setting that was later borrowed for the TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. The great director Billy Wilder adapted the hit stage play, applying his own wicked sense of humor to the apparently bleak subject matter. William Holden plays an antisocial grouse amid a gang of wisecracking though indomitable American prisoners. Because of his bitter cynicism, Holden is suspected by the others of being an informer to the Germans, an accusation he must deal with in his own crafty way. Holden, who had delivered a brilliant performance for Wilder in Sunset Boulevard, won the 1953 Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17. Very much his equal, however, is Otto Preminger, an accomplished director himself, who plays the strict, sneering camp commandant. --Robert Horton


Stalingrad (1992)
Starring: Dominique Horwitz, Thomas Kretschmann
Director: Joseph Vilsmaier
It's tempting to call this harrowing picture a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front: both films take the perspective of ordinary German soldiers at ground level. Stalingrad surveys the misery of the battle of Stalingrad, the winter siege that cost the lives of almost one and a half million people, Russian defenders and German invaders alike. Not unlike Spielberg's approach to Saving Private Ryan, German director Joseph Vilsmaier rarely steps outside the action to comment on the higher purpose of the war, assuming the audience is aware of the evil of the Nazi regime. Instead, we simply follow a group of soldiers as they endure a series of gut-wrenching episodes, events which have the tang of authenticity and horror. Vilsmaier has a taste for symbolism and surreal touches, which only add to the unsettling sense of insanity this movie conjures up so well. --Robert Horton

The Story of G.I. Joe

The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
Starring: Burgess Meredith, Robert Mitchum
Director: William A. Wellman
As they march into yet another devastated Italian town, one of the soldiers of Company C neatly sums up the average infantryman's experience of World War II: "When this war's over, I'm gonna buy me a map and find out where I've been." Released less than three months after the German surrender, The Story of G.I. Joe is a gritty portrayal of the reality of war: defeat as well as victory, blood and mud as well as glory. William Wellman's film was based on the newspaper columns of war correspondent Ernie Pyle (played by Burgess Meredith), and through him we get to know a small group of ordinary infantrymen as he follows them from North Africa into Italy. They're led by Captain Bill Walker (Robert Mitchum), who claims he earned his rank by living longer than the other lieutenants, and Sergeant Warnicki (Freddie Steele), a tough, gruff career soldier who carries a carefully wrapped recording of his son's voice across Italy in search of a gramophone. The soldiers--many played by real veterans of the Italian campaign--mature as we get to know them, becoming battle-hardened but increasingly exhausted. Meredith is effective as Pyle, who quickly becomes something of a company mascot. He earns the respect of the GIs by sticking around when the shells start to fly, and he becomes an even bigger hit when he brings them all turkey and cigars at Christmas. But if this quintessential ensemble piece belongs to anyone, it's Mitchum as the battle-weary C.O. Fiercely loyal to his men, he feels every death as a personal loss but refuses to flinch from his duty. Mitchum brings an extraordinary depth of emotion to his performance, and he received a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Much of the film's strength lies in the contrast between the human side of war--bored men trying to stay sane in cramped dugouts--and the inhuman randomness of its destruction. After every battle, ambush, or artillery attack there's a terrible moment when we wait to see who is dead--"We lost three," says Sergeant Warnicki as a few men stagger in from a patrol. The nerve-shatteringly realistic battle sequences bring to mind Saving Private Ryan, and The Story of G.I. Joe is a strong competitor with Spielberg's acclaimed film for the title of greatest-ever war movie. Several of the soldiers who appear in the film, along with Ernie Pyle himself, died in action before The Story of G.I. Joe was released. Fifty-five years later it still stands as a memorial to them and to all of the ordinary men and women who died in World War II. --Simon Leake

Swing Kids

Swing Kids (1993)
Starring: Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale
Director: Thomas Carter (II)
This strange movie with a niche subject--jazz-loving, dance-loving German kids persecuted by Hitler's men--almost works, thanks to a good cast who seem devoted to the unusual story line. Director Thomas Carter doesn't bring the necessary stylistic oomph to the musical sequences, something that might have pushed the whole production to another, more interesting level of Hollywood dream. Kenneth Branagh makes a particularly effective, wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Nazi official. --Tom Keogh

They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable (1945)
Starring: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne
Director: Robert Montgomery, John Ford
They Were Expendable is the greatest American film of the Second World War, made by America's greatest director, John Ford, who himself saw action from the Battle of Midway through D-day. Yet it's been oddly neglected. Or perhaps not so oddly: for as the matter-of-fact title implies, the film commemorates a period, from the eve of Pearl Harbor up to the impending fall of Bataan, when the Japanese conquest of the Pacific was in full cry and U.S. forces were fighting a desperate holding action. Although stirring movies had been made about these early days (Wake Island, Bataan, Air Force), they were gung ho in their resolve to see the tables turned. They Were Expendable, however, which was made when Allied victory was all but assured, is profoundly elegiac, with the patient grandeur of a tragic poem. "They" are the officers and men of the Navy's PT boat service, an experimental motor-torpedo force relegated to courier duty on Manila Bay but eventually proven effective in combat. Their commander is played by Robert Montgomery, who actually served on a PT and later commanded a destroyer at Normandy; James Agee called his "the one unimprovable performance" of 1945. In addition to giving it, Montgomery codirected the breathtaking second-unit action sequences (and took over the first unit for a week when Ford broke his leg). John Wayne's costarring role as Montgomery's volatile second-in-command initially looks stereotypically blustery, but as the drama unfolds--the death of comrades, a friendship-that-never-gets-to-be-a-romance with an Army nurse (Donna Reed)--Wayne sounds notes of tenderness and vulnerability that will take Duke-bashers by surprise. They Were Expendable is a heartbreakingly beautiful film, full of astonishing images of warfare, grief, courage, and dignity: the artificial "rainfall" that lashes the beached Wayne as his PT boat explodes in the surf; the glow around a communally improvised dinner for nurse Reed; an old ship-repairer (Russell Simpson, The Grapes of Wrath's Pa Joad) settling in grimly to wait for the Japanese, with "Red River Valley" as benediction; the propeller spray that hangs over a jungle inlet, like the dust from one of Ford's cavalry pictures, as the PTs round a bend and disappear into history. This is a masterpiece. --Richard T. Jameson

The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line (1999)
Starring: Sean Penn, James Caviezel
Director: Terrence Malick
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

Three Came Home

Three Came Home (1950)
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Patric Knowles
Director: Jean Negulesco

Three Comrades

Three Comrades (1938)
Starring: Robert Taylor, Margaret Sullavan
Director: Frank Borzage

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (1944)
Starring: Van Johnson
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
There is no more ringing title among World War II movies than Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and the mission it celebrates was unquestionably historic: a 400-mile bombing raid to carry the war to Japan itself mere months after that nation's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet the film is less memorable than many WWII pictures with less exalted factual basis. At the time, critic James Agee eloquently defined both its virtues and limitations as "a big-studio, big-scale film, free of artistic pretension ... transformed by its not very imaginative but very dogged sincerity into something forceful, simple, and thoroughly sympathetic in spite of all its big-studio, big-scale habits." That remains true today, but perhaps the movie--and its unimpeachably noble, admirably life-sized characters--wouldn't seem so stuck in the amber of a bygone era if Mervyn LeRoy and company had pumped a little "artistic pretension" into it. Spencer Tracy--as James H. Doolittle, architect of the raid--rates the most towering screen credit, and he's superb. But his role's an extended cameo; the emotional core of the film is B-25 pilot Ted Lawson (Van Johnson) and his wife, Ellen (the glowing Phyllis Thaxter). Lawson's bestselling memoir (with Bob Considine) of his training for the secret mission, his group's launching from the aircraft carrier Hornet, and his crash landing and protracted ordeal in China--where he lost a leg--has been faithfully served. The film is long on homely detail and all-American decency (including a remarkably outspoken regret over the unavoidability of civilian casualties) but achieves its greatest impact in the raid itself. That sequence, in addition to boasting Oscar-winning special effects, is mostly shot in riveting silence. --Richard T. Jameson

To Hell and Back

To Hell and Back (1955)
Starring: Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson
Director: Jesse Hibbs
Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in World War II, enjoyed a Hollywood acting career after the fight. In this 1955 autobiographical film, however, he plays himself re-creating his own actions and movements in key battles. As strange as this project might have seemed to him at the time, the results are pretty impressive. The film, despite a flat script, is really a pretty good war drama about Murphy and his buddies making their way from North Africa to Berlin. --Tom Keogh

Too Late the Hero

Too Late the Hero (1970)
Starring: Michael Caine, Cliff Robertson
Director: Robert Aldrich

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Starring: Martin Balsam, Sô Yamamura
Director: Akira Kurosawa, Richard Fleischer
"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

The Train

The Train (1965)
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield
Director: Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer
This is one of John Frankenheimer's breathless gems--all marvelous action that never lets up. Burt Lancaster plays a French train engineer during the waning days of the German occupation who tries to prevent Nazi colonel Paul Scofield from transporting a precious art collection back to Germany. Utilizing sabotage and cunning deception, Lancaster and his Resistance colleagues stall for time with the Allies on their way. It's a brilliantly made film, showing off Lancaster's acrobatic skills (he performed all of his own stunts) and Frankenheimer's sense of pacing and brilliant use of space. It's choreographed with the utmost precision (those are real explosions during the pivotal strafing sequence) and extremely authentic in its details. Lancaster is in rare minimalist form, and Scofield manages to extract intelligence and sympathy. A firecracker action film shot in crisp black and white, with yet another telling audio commentary by the always instructive director. --Bill Desowitz


Truman (1995)
Director: Frank Pierson
Harry S. Truman had a hard row to hoe as the 33rd president and he never enjoyed popularity while in office. Think about what occurred on Truman's watch: the bombing of Hiroshima, a nationwide railroad strike, the rise of the Southern States' Rights Party, integration of the armed forces, the ascendancy of McCarthyism, the early cold war, and finally the Korean Conflict and Truman's decision to fire General MacArthur. Few American presidents have been faced with more difficult and dangerous times than Truman. It wasn't until some 50 years later that Harry Truman, a farmer from Missouri, got his due appreciation in the history books. Truman follows the man from his beginnings as an artillery officer in WWI through his connections with Missouri's Pendergast political machine and onward to Washington. The always-excellent Gary Sinise is a perfect fit for the Truman character, having obviously studied the President's plainspoken Missouri twang and ramrod-straight bearing at great length. Diana Scarwid is also very good as Truman's long-suffering wife Bess; the film studies the relationship between the two in some depth, and also sheds light on the men who surrounded Truman in Washington. Truman's chief failing is that in its effort to detail 40 years of the man's life, certain historical events are given short shrift in order to fit them all in. Nonetheless, Sinise inhabits the character well; the scene where the President ruminates on dining alone in the White House (while Bess is back in Missouri) is a great, understated comment on the loneliness, isolation, and stress of the job. --Jerry Renshaw

The Tuskegee Airman

The Tuskegee Airman (1995)
Director: Robert Markowitz
This true story of the black flyers who broke the color barrier in the U.S. Air Force during World War II is a well-intentioned film highlighted by an excellent cast. Proud, solemn, Iowa-born Laurence Fishburne and city-kid hipster Cuba Gooding Jr. are among the hopefuls who meet en route to Tuskegee Air Force Base, where they are among the recruits for an "experimental" program to "prove" the abilities of the black man in the U.S. armed services. Fighting prejudice from racist officers and government officials and held to a consistently higher level of performance than their white counterparts, these men prove themselves in training and in combat, many of them dying for their country in the process. Andre Braugher costars as a West Point graduate who takes charge of the unit in Africa and in Italy (where it's christened the 332nd). The film is rousing, if slow starting and episodic, but it's periodically grounded by a host of war movie clichés, notably the calculated demise of practically every trainee introduced in the opening scenes (ironic given the 332nd's real-life combat record--high casualties for the enemy, low casualties among themselves, and no losses among the bombers they escorted). Ultimately the Emmy-nominated performances by moral backbone Fishburne and the dedicated Braugher and the energy and cocky confidence of Gooding give their battles both on and off the battlefield the sweet taste of victory. --Sean Axmaker

Twelve O'Clock High

Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe
Director: Henry King
The wartime memories of surviving World War II bomber squadrons were still crystal clear when this acclaimed drama was released in 1949--one of the first postwar films out of Hollywood to treat the war on emotionally complex terms. Framed by a postwar prologue and epilogue and told as a flashback appreciation of wartime valor and teamwork, the film stars Gregory Peck in one of his finest performances as a callous general who assumes command of a bomber squadron based in England. At first, the new commander has little rapport with the 918th Bomber Group, whose loyalties still belong with their previous commander. As they continue to fly dangerous missions over Germany, however, the group and their new leader develop mutual respect and admiration, until the once-alienated commander feels that his men are part of a family--men whose bravery transcends the rigors of rigid discipline and by-the-book leadership. The film's now-classic climax, in which the general waits patiently for his squad to return to base--painfully aware that they may not return at all--is one of the most subtle yet emotionally intense scenes of any World War II drama. With Peck in the lead and Dean Jagger doing Oscar-winning work in a crucial supporting role, this was one of veteran director Henry King's proudest achievements, and it still packs a strong dramatic punch. --Jeff Shannon

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