This movie is about a group of American soldiers in Italy during World War II.
From the get go, it becomes clear that this film is based off a book. This does not detract from the thrust of the story, and as the film continues on you almost become part of the platoon. Nothing really ‘happens’ in the strict sense of the word, but the film still succeeds in being a very engaging piece of cinema. The cinematography is perfect and very stark.
This film is all the more brilliant because it is the sort of film which perfectly melds a soldier’s desire to rebuild life after conflict with the actual conflict itself. Another one of Lewis Milestone’s film is the World War I epic, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)which deals with similar themes and both films are truly spectacular.
There is no evil enemy. There is no soppy romance. Just a group of soldiers wanting to battle courageously to the end and dreaming of seemingly simple things such as being able to eat an apple.
My favourite character was John Ireland’s Pfc. Windy Craven, a soldier who composed letters to loved ones in his head and wrote them down later. It is such a human moment and luckily this film vastly lacks an unrealistic hero with unrealistic ambitions. They also portray shellshock, which is surprising but certainly interesting. Sadly, however, it also shows that nothing stops when people fall because life goes on. It just has to.
A super film if you like other films by Lewis Milestone, or a good war epic in general then I highly recommend this film.
MY RATING: **** / *****