For years after its release, Richard Attenborough’s “A Bridge Too Far” courted significant controversy. The film describes in astonishing detail the unfolding of Operation Market Garden — a failed Allied attempt during WWII to take several bridges and break through German lines. What became highly contentious was Sir Dirk Bogarde’s portrayal of General Browning.
Friends and family of the late general believed that he was made the fall guy for the failure of Operation Market Garden. In recent years, however, critics and viewers have seen the movie in a new positive light, and with good reason. “A Bridge Too Far” has an enticing script from William Goldman and a meticulously detailed account of the operation that war history enthusiasts love.
The Human Condition (1959)
What can one say about “The Human Condition,” only one of the greatest Japanese war films ever made? Directed by the legendary Masaki Kobayashi the film is essentially three movies in one and runs for a whopping 10 hours. And yes, they are best viewed together for maximum effect! “The Human Condition” is a powerful view of war and humanity, with all its strengths and flaws.
Its story is centered largely around a good man named Kaji. Kaji moves to Manchuria with the aim of running a POW camp. He genuinely wants to create better labor conditions for Chinese prisoners but he is soon dragged into enlisting for the Japanese Imperial Army, becoming a POW himself in a Soviet camp. The film is a heartbreaking and solemn meditation on what war does to humanity.
Despite his failing health and financing troubles, Akira Kurosawa put everything into "Ran." The results? An epic film that became the most compelling and expensive Japanese film made during the time. Kurosawa weaves elements of William Shakespeare’s "King Lear" into a story based on Mori Motonari, a feudal lord who lived during the 16th century.
Tatsuya Nakadai portrays the role of Ichimonji Hidetora, a legendary but now aging daimyo who wants to split his kingdom among his three sons. His sons have other plans. Bloody conflict ensues, largely as retaliation against Hidetora’s oppressive rule. “Ran” is a tale of regret and introspection – how one man cast humanity and virtue for glory, which ultimately means nothing and literally burns to the ground.
The Great Dictator (1940)
“The Great Dictator” is a significant milestone in Charlie Chaplin’s filmography. To start, it was his first non-silent movie. Chaplin had steered clear from non-silent films thus far. Second, audiences got to see him shine in a darker film, a sharp departure from his otherwise light and comedic repertoire. This isn’t your typical war film in any case.
It has several funny moments and Chaplin is exceptional as Dictator Adenoid Hynkel. Beyond the humor and satire, let’s not forget that the subject of the film is none other than Adolf Hitler on the rise in Germany. Chaplin uses humor to address Hitler’s sinister rhetoric and desire for power. For audiences viewing the film after WWII, Chaplin’s warnings become a prophecy, given how much Hitler managed to decimate the very fabric of humanity until his defeat in 1945.
The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989)
This Australian war movie takes us to the battlefields of Vietnam. Sergeant Major Hafner (played by R. Lee Ermey) leads his squad on patrol through dangerous enemy territory. The soldiers’ objective is clear — to officially capture and defend Firebase Gloria. The result is an epic battle scene, among the finest cinematic moments on the silver screen.
Studio executives ended up butchering the film, with cuts that destroyed most of its insightful commentary on war. Despite the thoughtless editing, “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” is still an underrated film about the Vietnam War and ideas of reconciliation – one that deserves more attention and recognition.