Perhaps the best war film of all, even tops ryan
11-16-2013 i never thought i'd see a war film bette than spielberg's "savbing pvt.ryan," but this george stevens jr. entry is a gut punched ,hert-searing mindassaulting drama starring somebignames aand some of the most intense scenes ever. it could have been the war of 1812, the war of 1861-65,the first or second worldwaroreven viet nam but, it is wwii and we'rer on guadalcannal and the marines under generaljohn trvolta attacks the pacific island with a force intended to do amop upof the battle,won by the u.s.. the intent is to wipeout the small buttenaciousresistance ofjapanese fanaticsleft behind. col. nick nolte is a ruthlesslyambitious commander whobullies and pushes and even cajoleshis juniorofficerstodo his bidding. he was, earlier in his career,passed over and nowhe's going to gethis. the film opens with idyllic scenes of james cavezelhving desertedtrying to live out the war on a tiny quiet nearby island,sparedfrom the violence but is discovered and returned to duty. because of the pending invasion, his crime is ovefrlooked and he loyally returnsto the war, distinguishing himselfin battle. much of the film is a sequence of "you are there" combat, close quarter style, with the equallydeterrmined japanese, blocking the marine'sadvance towards the target airstrip,fromwhich, in truth,the us will take and dominate the pacific in a 1000mileradius. nolte pushes his commanding captain to attack and tries to convince both him , and himself,that the attack is pariotic and noble. we can see, however,that nolte wants glory forhimself, and offers it to his subordinants as a bribe. they see right through him..seaan penn plays the regiment's cynical, tough ,brave leadsgt. and is outstandingin his portrayal. the marines on the island have their own cowards, and babies, heros and stoicsand , the climactic sceneis a showdown battle of the marines and their emeny'smain post,man to man in grat brutality, set against hans zimmer's unforgetable searing score, willed with both tragedy and pathos, regret,brotherly love and near supernatural devotion to do one's duty. deserter, jim cavezel is constantly visited by whimsical and overwhelmingly beautiful flashback images of he and his wife, back homein the states. their scenes of dreamlike lovemaking, allfully clothed, arewonderfullytouching and moving, and i was totally stunned when my wife was unimpressed with the footage. it is some of the most romantic materialever in the movies and well worth the timeto watch it. and, in a completely unexpected and jar-dropping twist, at ht e movie's closingsections, afterthe main battle has been won, cavezal gets mail rom his adoring wife in the form of a dear jack leter." he has endured, as wellas his brother marines, she says she has met an air forceofficer and fallen in love and wants a divorse. "it just got too lonely, jack," she says, asnd we can feelhimfall topieces,but he endures. after the major bsattleof the two remaining forces, resulting in a clearmarine victory, there are scenes of heart-whrenching tenderness of japanese for each other,marines for their comradwes and individual americans for their counterparts, which is the best part of the movie. whether or not this really happened , i'n not so sure but, oddly enough, in war , as in peace, all men are brothers. as the remaining mrines leave guadelcnnel,they each withdraw within themselvesand we hear gentlenarrations of their letter written to their homes,pondring,who they were as men. it is a peaceful and touching end to a great movie experience, one which i will remember for a long time. in fact, it is the only way this film really could end, in gentle, reflective mystery. years ago tom browka wrote the greatest generation, a good book, but there are many,many betterones. he asked the rhetoricalquestion as to these soldiers, "who were they?" well sir, they were north texas bank tellersand nebraska wheat farmers. they were wise-cracking kansas city cabbies and gorgian sheet metal workers. they were tall and short, drinkers and tea-totalers, they wrote poems and collected stamps , they prayed on their knees, and they wandered amongst the eternity of doubt and quite few of them played baseball. but,they weree more than all that. they were teachers and cops, butchers and truck drivers. they were fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, neighboors and strangers they were somebody's. in war, everybody is somebody's. they were americans, and they were japanese. requiece in pace, domine may they rest in the peace of the lord. pray for peace,god bless you, tony.