Monday, May 9, 2011

Two Antiwar Films

The two recent war films watched were "Beach Red" and "The Battle of El Alamein". "Beach Red" was an excellent film about a Marine attack on a Japanese-held island during the Pacific campaign, featuring a young Rip Torn. The opening landing rivalled the frenetic opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" and the only real problem with the many battle scenes was that it used that bright red fake blood from that era, making it look like more of a paintball war than a gruesome action scene. But what really made the film stand out was its extensive humanizing of the enemy soldiers, with flashbacks for the combatants on both sides, and genuine sorrow displayed by soldiers of each side when one of their comrades gets killed. I'm hard pressed to think of any war films that did such a good job showing war as a tragic situation where groups of young men are wasted killing one another simply because the older generations deem it necessary. (Though I won't get into a long discussion of when wars are necessary, etc.--just wanted to note that the anti-war message of the film was certainly more powerful than any of Oliver Stone's pretentious crap.)

"El Alamein" was an Italian production, focusing largely on the doomed Italian troops in that battle. A lot of history students likely arent' aware that Italians made up a majority of the troops under Rommel's command in North Africa, and while these soldiers were often poorly trained, poorly equipped and unmotivated, there were units (such as Ariete and Folgore) that performed heroically (and unfortunately, for the side that Hitler was on). The film also showed the British opponents, well supplied and well-led by Montgomery (and the actor playing Monty was a dead ringer for the real General himself), while Rommel displays misgivings about his strategic situation and a contempt both for his Italian allies and Hitler himself. The Italians in this film are given the hopeless task of trying to hold back British armor with inferior weapons


  1. Interesting, I was just reading a book this weekend called "The Ninty Days."

    It makes the interesting connection that on Oct. 1, 1942, things were looking all bright and rosy for the Axis. However, 90 days later following Alamein, Guadacanal, Stalingrad and Operation Torch (U.S. invasion of North Africa), the tide of the war had inexorably shifted toward the Allies. Basically, on Jan. 1, 1943 the war was over, except there were still almost three years of shooting and dying left.

  2. Foggy--it is interesting how everything seemed to crack at about that time. Much of it had to do with the U.S. finally gettting its armies and fleets trained and deployed, and the Soviets bouncing back from their earlier blows. My thought on WWII wasn't so much amazement that we won but amazement that the Axis got as far as they did considering what they were up against.