• Review: The Longest Day

    From Roger Bell_West's autoposter@21:1/5 to All on Wed Nov 23 09:49:52 2016
    1962 war, dir. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki and others: [IMDb](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056197/) / [allmovie](http://www.allmovie.com/movie/the-longest-day-v29958)

    The tale of the D-Day invasion in 1944, with a literal cast of thousands.

    This was one of the last of the "big" Second World War films,
    with filming in many of the real locations, combined with military
    advisors who'd actually been there (on both sides). It is nonetheless
    a film of its era: its mannered, bloodless beach assaults are unlikely
    to send combat veterans into post-traumatic stress attacks as the
    opening moments of _Saving Private Ryan_ famously did, and that may
    not be a bad thing.

    All the major elements of the fighting on the 6th of June are here:
    the glider assaults to secure the Bénouville and Ranville bridges, the scattered American paratrooper assault on Saint-Mère-Église,
    infiltration and sabotage by the French Resistance, and the battles up
    the landing beaches, on Pointe du Hoc and in Ouistreham. On the Axis
    side, we mostly see high command's uncertainty about whether this
    really is the full invasion or just a bluff, as well as a couple of
    pilots who end up in the only fighters strafing the beaches. Unlike
    many other American war films, this does admit that there were
    non-American Allied troops involved; even the Free French get a look

    It sometimes comes over as more of a pageant of stars than a war film, especially when John Wayne is on screen (nearly 30 years older when
    filming started than Lt Colonel Vandervoort was in the real thing); he
    was enough of a star at the time that he was able to throw his weight
    around and displace Charlton Heston, who was originally offered the
    role. Most of the other big names are on screen too briefly to
    register as more than a cameo, and one or two are unrecognisable
    unless you're looking for them (for example Sean Connery's turn as a
    British soldier; he apparently asked for his part to be finished early
    so that he could go to Jamaica to work on a little-known film called
    _Dr. No_). Richard Burton has an effective cameo as an RAF pilot who's
    survived too many missions, and Robert Mitchum as an Assistant
    Division Commander makes his mark, but otherwise the characters are
    mostly there as focal points for the viewer rather than as drivers of

    The plot is of course pretty simple anyway: bad guys there, good guys
    here, good guys invade and beat bad guys with some complications. It's simplified further in that there's no mention of the utter failure of
    the invasion to reach its first-day objectives, or the hard fighting
    that was to follow. Still, the Germans are not shown as cartoonish
    villains: some are good men trying to do their best, others (typically higher-ranking) as self-interested politicians, but they're basically
    _on the wrong side_ more than they are nasty people. (Hitler himself
    doesn't appear at all.) The film is based on Cornelius Ryan's book of
    the same name (he also wrote _A Bridge Too Far_), and I find myself
    tempted to read it; certainly this is closer to being a documentary
    than are the vast majority of war films.

    Special effects are all practical, with some optical compositing; this
    becomes very obvious in shots of soldiers on board the landing-craft,
    with back-projected water and ships behind an obviously fixed boat in
    a studio, and I can't help feeling that it would have been easier to
    put a camera aboard the real thing. Other effects work much better:
    maybe there are squibs going off on the ground even after the strafing
    plane has pulled up, but dammit they're _real_ squibs that the actors
    can really react to, not just a mess of pixels added months later.

    There are plenty of factual errors as well as some equipment that is
    clearly anachronistic to the expert eye, but overall this works really
    rather well, and even at three hours and with all the foreigners
    subtitled I'd recommend it to a modern viewer.


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