Sailor of the King (1953), Director: Roy Boulting, Running time: 83 minutes. Based on the WWI adventure novel Brown on Resolution by C.S. Forester, Sailor of the King is an enjoyable British-made war drama buoyed by its energetic star, Jeffrey Hunter, and an exciting and suspenseful premise. The picture opens on a slow note with British Navy captain Michael Rennie ending a tryst with English girl Wendy Hiller; years later, the product of that union is British-Canadian sailor Jeffrey Hunter, whose ship is dispatched to intercept a powerful German warship by now-Admiral Rennie. The ensuing fight sinks Hunter's ship and damages the German boat, but Hunter evades capture and hunkers down on the island where the Nazi captain (Peter Van Eyck) has docked for repairs; there he wages a one-man assault against the ship using only a rifle and his own skills. Roy Boulting's direction is crisp and assured, and the cast, especially the underappreciated Hunter (in his first leading role), is uniformly fine, which should make Sailor of the King a worthwhile discovery for WWII action fans. (Paul Gaita for Amazon.com)
Saints and Soldiers (2004), Director: Ryan Little, Running time: 90 minutes. A handful of fighting men must defy the odds to save their own lives and thousands of others in this drama set during World War II. In late 1944, a band of nearly a hundred American soldiers are making their way through a wooded region of Belgium when they are ambushed by German forces in a battle that became known as “the Malmady Massacre.” Inspired by a true story, Saints and Soldiers is the first feature film from Ryan Little, a Utah-based filmmaker who previously made a number of short subjects relating to issues of faith in the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1950), Director: Allan Dwan, Running time: 109 minutes. The legendary gung-ho WWII combat film, stars John Wayne as the battle-hardened Sgt. Stryker, a role that would, perhaps more than any other, come to define the actor's iconography. As he begins to hammer an ethnically diverse group of recruits into combat-ready shape, they learn of his notorious toughness, and of the mystery surrounding his demotion. Stryker finds that Pete Conway (John Agar) the son of his late commanding officer, hated his father and hates Stryker for his likeness to the man. After Stryker and his unit have been fighting on Tarawa Atoll, Cpl. Al Thomas (Forrest Tucker) neglects his post, resulting in the death of one man and the wounding of another. While the squad listens to the moans of Bass (James Brown) the wounded man, Stryker, following orders to entrench, refuses to let anyone help him. Bass is rescued, and when he sees Stryker in Hawaii, tells him about Thomas' screw-up. Stryker and Thomas get into a fight which is stopped by a major, but Thomas accepts the blame, knowing Stryker's career could be destroyed, and begs his forgiveness for his dereliction of duty.
Saving Private Ryan (1999), Director: Steven Spielberg, Running time: 169 minutes. Director Steven Spielberg's World War II tour de force chronicles the journey of a GI squad on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), the unit is under orders to track down a soldier, Private Ryan (Matt Damon), so he might return home to his mother in America, where she is grieving the unimaginable loss of her three other sons to the war. The first unforgettable 20 minutes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN realistically and horrifically depicts the Normandy invasion as Miller. his second-in-command, Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore), and the others in the unit land at Omaha Beach.
The Sea Wolves (1981), Director: Andrew V. McLaglen, Running time: 120 minutes. During World War II, a military regiment made up of elderly soldiers embarks on a dangerous mission to destroy a Nazi ship containing a radio transmitter. The men of the Calcutta Light Horse have been recruited for the assignment by British intelligence officers Colonel Lewis Pugh and Captain Gavin Stewart. After receiving training, the troops head off to attack their target, which is located in a Goa, India harbor. But to accomplish their goal, the soldiers must first steal a boat and ferret out a spy. Will this ragtag bunch of fighters have what it takes to pull off their complex operation?
The Second Front (2004), Director: Dmitri Fiks, Running time: 92 minutes. In the midst of World War 2, intelligence services from England, Germany and Russia collided in a fierce fight for the mind of Nicky Raus, a genius German Jewish scientist who's developing a weapon of tremendous power. An American agent, Frank Hossom, enters the game when German agents undertake a daring operation stealing the scientist. Frank has to get the scientist back - dead or alive. His mission is complicated by his developing relationship with Olga Ryabina, Nicky's lover, an actress forced to work for KGB. The love triangle and the international intrigue weave into a deadly net. (IMBd)
Schindler's List (1993), Director: Steven Spielberg, Running time: 196 minutes. Winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, it also won every major Best Picture Awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Producers Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics, the Chicago, Boston and Dallas Film Critics; a Christopher Award; and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe Awards. Steven Spielberg was further honored with the Directors Guild of America Award. The film presents the indelible true story of the enigmatic Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, womanizer, and war profiteer who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference, and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in human history because of what he did. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film, which also won Academy Awards for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music, Editing, and Art Direction, stars an acclaimed cast headed by Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, and Embeth Davidtz.
Shining Through (1992), Director: David Seltzer, Running time: 132 minutes. In this romantic espionage thriller set against the backdrop of World War II, a secretary from Queens is transformed into a government spy. After discovering her attorney boss and lover is actually a secret agent, she convinces him to let her go undercover. With the help of a fellow operative she penetrates the Berlin home of a high-ranking enemy official, and works swiftly to accomplish her mission.
The Shop On Main Street (1966), Director: Elmar Klos, Running time: 125 minutes. An inept Czech peasant is torn between greed and guilt when the Nazi-backed bosses of his town appoint him "Aryan controller" of an old Jewish widow's button shop. Humor and tragedy fuse in this scathing exploration of one cowardly man's complicity in the horrors of a totalitarian regime. Made near the height of Soviet oppression in Czechoslovakia, The Shop on Main Street features intense editing and camera work which won it the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film in 1965.
Sink the Bismarck! (1960), Director: Lewis Gilbert (II), Running time: 97 minutes. It's spring 1941, and Great Britain is the only country in Europe yet to be defeated by the Nazi army, but all of that could change soon. The Nazis have launched their juggernaut battleship, the Bismarck, to close off British supply lines and ultimately invade England. A counterstrike is ordered, and with an arsenal of ships at their command, Royal intelligence officers Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More) and Anne Davis (Dana Wynter) fight desperately to destroy the Bismarck.
Soldier of Orange (1979), Director: Paul Verhoeven, Running time: 156 minutes. Based on real events, Soldier of Orange tells the story of Dutchman Erik Lanshof (a star-making performance by Rutger Hauer) and a small group of students as they struggle to survive the Nazi occupation to the end of the Second World War. The destinies of the characters range from joining the German army to making for England, the OSS, and the Resistance. Across a canvas lasting almost three hours, director Paul Verhoeven unfolds a saga of friendship, espionage, and romance with almost documentary realism--though not as graphically violent as his later American films, the torture scenes are intense--crafting a deeply affecting film widely regarded as the greatest ever made in Holland. Comparable recent films such as Enigma (2001) and Charlotte Gray (2002) do not come close. Hauer is brilliant at the heart of what is a detailed and thoughtful drama made with integrity and passion. Twenty years later in 1997, Verhoeven made Starship Troopers, a satirical science-fiction companion to this modern European classic. (Gary S. Dalkin for Amazon.com)
Soldier's Story (1984), Director: Norman Jewison, Running time: 101 minutes. An African American officer investigates a murder in a racially charged situation in World War II. A black soldier is killed while returning to his base in the deep-south. The white people of the area are suspected at first. A tough black army attorney is brought in to find out the truth. We find out a bit more about the dead soldier in flashbacks—and that he was unpopular.
Solntse (2005), Director: Aleksandr Sokurov, Running time: 115 minutes. As Japan nears defeat at the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito starts his day in a bunker underneath the Imperial Palace in Toyko. A servant reads to him a list of activities for the day, including a meeting with his ministers, marine biology research, and writing his son. Hirohito muses about the impact on such schedules when the Americans arrive but is told that as long as there is a solitary Japanese person living, the Americans will not reach The Emperor. Hirohito replies that he at times feels like he himself will be the last Japanese person left alive. The servant reminds him that he is a deity, not a person, but Hirohito points out that he has a body just like any other man. He later reflects on the causes of the war when dictating observations about a hermit crab, and then about the peace to come when composing a letter to his son. Soon enough General Douglas MacArthur's personal car is sent to bring him through the ruins of Tokyo for a meeting with the supreme commander of the victorious occupying forces. Underlying all the conversation that follows is the question of Hirohito's future, either as Emperor or a war criminal. The two very different men strangely bond after sharing dinner and Havana cigars, and Hirohito leaves, renounces his divine nature, and is re-united with his family in the palace to face a new life to help re-build his war-ravaged country as a constitutional monarch. (Written by Brian Greenhalgh for IMDb)
Sophie's Choice (1982), Director: Alan J. Pakula, Running time: 150 minutes. A young would-be writer named Stingo (Peter MacNicol) shares a boarding house with beautiful Polish immigrant Sophie (Meryl Streep) and her tempestuous lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline); their friendship changes his life. This adaptation of the bestselling novel by William Styron is faithful to the point of being reverential, which is not always the right way to make a film come to life. But director Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men) provides a steady, intelligent path into the harrowing story of Sophie, whose flashback memories of the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp form the backbone of the movie. Streep's exceptional performance--flawless Polish accent and all--won her an Oscar, and effectively raised the standard for American actresses of her generation. No less impressive is Kevin Kline, in his movie debut, capturing the mercurial moods of the dangerously attractive Nathan. The two worlds of Sophie's Choice, nostalgic Brooklyn and monstrous Europe, are beautifully captured by the gifted cinematographer Néstor Almendros, whose work was Oscar-nominated but didn't win. It should have. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), Director: Marc Rothemund, Running time: 117 minutes.
2005 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Sophie Scholl - The Final Days is the true story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine brought to thrilling, dramatic life. Sophie Scholl stars Julia Jentsch (of recent cult fave The Edukators) in a luminous performance as the fearless activist of the underground student resistance group, The White Rose. Armed with long-buried historical records of her incarceration, director Marc Rothemund expertly re-creates the last six days of Sophie Scholl's life: a heart-stopping journey from arrest to interrogation, trial and sentence in 1943 Munich. Unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to her comrades, her cross-examination by the Gestapo quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless.
Stalag 17 (1953), Director: Billy Wilder, Running time: 120 minutes. Billy Wilder's adaptation of the Broadway hit stars William Holden as the cynical Sefton. Set in the eponymous German prison camp during WWII, the director's broad, black comedy focuses on a group of decidedly unheroic prisoners. While they spend most of their time trying to entertain each other with comedy routines and pin-ups, they also occasionally entertain thoughts of escape. But escape is the last thing on the mind of the hard, calculating Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who's salted away a stash of creature comforts which are the envy of the barracks. When a couple of prisoners are killed while attempting to escape, Sefton collects the money he won by betting against their success, and many believe that it was he who informed the Germans. After a new prisoner, Lt. Dunbar (Don Taylor) talks openly about having bombed a German ammo train, he's immediately subjected to a harsh interrogation by sadistic commandant Oberst von Scherbach (Otto Preminger). Their suspicions confirmed, the prisoners take revenge against Sefton.
The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), Director: William A. Wellman, Running time: 108 minutes. The mightiest action drama ever filmed! Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear) and Burgess Meredith (Of Mice and Men) star in this gripping World War II drama based on the newspaper columns of Pulitizer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Directed by legendary filmmaker William Wellman, "The Story of G.I. Joe" depicts Ernie Pyle's (Meredith) experiences with the men of Company C of the 18th Infantry and their role in the invasion of Italy. Pyle joins Captain Bill Walker (Mitchum) and his men in the desert of North Africa and follows these gallant soldiers as they fight their way from the beaches of Sicily to the hills of southern Italy. Few films have so honestly portrayed the harrowing existence of the infantry soldier in World War II—an unsentimental, often brutal, but always human story of the mud, blood and death that surround the infantryman in combat. Mitchum's performance made him a star and earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Critics and film historians agree—this is simply one of the best films ever made about World War II.
The Story of Tank Commander Nishizumi (Nishizumi Senshacho-Den) (1940), Director: Kimisaburo Yoshimura, Running time: 136 minutes. Filmed during the war with China, when all films were subject to military censorship, The Story of Tank Commander Nishizumi consequently casts the war in a positive, yet (to Yoshimura's credit) realistic light. With a light touch, Yoshimura tells the life story of Nishizumi, beginning with his early schooling in a Japanese village. Following in his father's footsteps, Nishizumi goes to military school and is sent to the Chinese front. He becomes the leader of a tank regiment and his easy and generous ways quickly win over his soldiers. The film follows Nishizumi and his unit as they move into battle, where Nishizumi proves to be a great leader, respected and admired by his troops. As the Japanese close in on Nanking, Nishizumi is wounded several times, but never leaves the front lines, preferring to command while injured. At the battle of Nanking, Nishizumi is shot and killed by a Chinese soldier. As he dies his soldiers stand loyally around him, and he passes with the words, "All I have done is for my Emperor." ~ Brian Whitener, All Movie Guide
Straight Into Darkness (2003), Director: Jeff Burr, Running time: 95 minutes.
The horrors of war flow deep in the veins of two young American G.I.s who desert their platoon during the waning days of World War II in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 director Jeff Burr's chilling tale of terror on the battlefield. Despite the best efforts of Allied forces, Axis troops still have a stronghold over many key European outposts. With time quickly running out before they are attacked by the enemy and branded deserters by their own battalion, these two desperate soldiers soon team with a deadly band of killer orphans to take out a key Nazi base and secure yet another victory for the increasingly powerful Allies. (Jason Buchanan for All Movie Guide)
Submarine X-1 (1969), Director: William A. Graham, Running time: 90 minutes.
Academy Award nominee James Caan commands a covert naval operation in this riveting drama inspired by an amazing true story discovered in declassified British War Office files. With "first-class underwater photography" (Variety) and taut suspense, this tale of heroism paved the way for films like The Hunt for Red October. Commander Bolton (Caan) has lost his submarine, the Gauntlet, in a sea battle with the Nazis in 1943. Although the survivors still blame him, he's cleared of charges and assigned to lead a top-secret training program with three experimental miniature X-1 subs, each manned by a crew of only four. Their mission: to sink the mighty battleship Lindendorf, the same ship that destroyed the Gauntlet!
Sudba Cheloveka (Destiny of a Man) (1959), Director: Sergei Bondarchuk, Running time: 103 minutes. The story of a man (Andrey Sokolov) whose life was ruthlessly crippled by World War II. His wife and daughter were killed during the bombing of his village, he spent some time as a prisoner, and his only son was killed in action only a few days before the victory. (Boris Shafir for IMDb)
Sundown (1941), Director: Henry Hathaway, Running Time: 91 minutes. Englishmen fighting Nazis in Africa discover an exotic mystery woman living among the natives and enlist her aid in overcoming the Germans.
Swing Kids (1993), Director: Thomas Carter (II), Running time: 114 minutes. In 1939, Nazi Germany declares war on freedom and demands conformity from its youth. But a group calling themselves Swing Kids rebel with their "swing music" from America. When two of them dare to stand up against the powerful forces around them—traditions will be broken and loyalties must be crossed! Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poets Society) and Christian Bale (Shaft, American Psycho) deliver gripping performances as two friends who must choose between their individual freedom or loyalty to the murderous Third Reich. Also featuring screen favorite Barbara Hershey (Beaches, Tin Men), Swing Kids is an inspirational and powerful story about friendship—and finding the courage to fight for what you believe in!
Sword of Honour (2001), Director: Bill Anderson (III), Running time: 193 minutes. Thirty-five-year-old Englishman Guy Crouchback returns home from Italy at the start of the war determined to fight the good fight. Horrified by Nazi barbarism and emotionally shattered by a painful divorce, Crouchback eagerly accepts a post with the elite Royal Corps of Halberdiers. But nothing has prepared him for the absurd reality of life in the British army or the return of his alluring ex-wife.
The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Director: John Huston, Running time: 69 minutes.
John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage, like Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, is a heartbreakingly beautiful film mutilated by its studio after a disastrous preview process. You can—and should—read the fascinating production history in Lillian Ross's Picture. Picture is a classic—and so's the movie, even in a 69-minute reduction featuring a climactic Civil War battle that has Stephen Crane's young hero wearing his red badge of courage, then not wearing it, then wearing it again (MGM editor-in-chief Margaret Booth re-cut two different battles into one). Most-decorated-soldier-of-WWII Audie Murphy was chosen to star ("a gentle little killer," Huston mused); the shadow of WWII is also felt in the casting of war-front chronicler Bill Mauldin as Murphy's pal, and in Huston's own experience making his great battlefield documentary San Pietro. The panoramas evoke Mathew Brady, and Huston's close-up framing brings a psychoanalytic intensity to the terrified young soldier's inner turmoil. (Richard T. Jameson for Amazon.com)
Brian De Palma’s ferocious Redacted is one of a number of cinematic protests against the Iraq War and the withholding of information and images about the war from the U.S. public. But it also shares De Palma’s perennial interest in the relationship between film and violence, a relationship that has changed significantly in the real world because of the Internet, cable news, and the ubiquity of camcorders on the ground in Iraq.
In a world more intent than ever on watching everything, De Palma has fashioned Redacted to look like a daisy chain of found footage taken from disparate sources. These include an American soldier’s video journal (which, not insignificantly, is also supposed to be that soldier’s audition piece for film school), a French documentary, a security camera at the edge of an army compound, and streaming video online from insurgents and military families alike. Taken together, Redacted recreates the kind of Iraq War scenes we’ve heard about for years: soldiers kidnapped or felled by booby traps, pregnant women and children shot by American guards at military checkpoints because Iraqi drivers misunderstand orders, etc. With mood and setting firmly established, Redacted then tells the story of an atrocity ripped from headlines in 2006: the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen, as well as the murder of her family, by American soldiers who then proceed to cover up their crime. Meanwhile, other soldiers, well-meaning witnesses to what happened, implode with doubt and uncertainty about what to do.
In a way, Redacted is really about the paralysis of ordinary Americans confronted by the horror of our collective misjudgment about Iraq. It's a work of fiction using actors, meaning that De Palma employs a verisimilitude which sometimes doesn’t sit well with anyone who has seen a lot of Iraq War documentaries featuring real troops and real Iraqis. But De Palma is trying to do something very difficult, i.e., make the case that in war, truth really is the first casualty. (Tom Keogh for Amazon.com)
Roger Ebert called it "perfect," and certainly the timing couldn't have been much better: Rendition was released just as the U.S. was debating anew the issue of "extraordinary rendition," a policy (begun under the Clinton administration, accelerated after September 11, 2001) of handing over suspected terrorists to countries that use torture as an interrogation tool. Alas, the movie only rarely fills in the outlines of a prototypical "issue movie," the kind of thing peopled by cardboard characters tracing the patterns of an important, indeed urgent, subject. The plot kicks into gear when an Egyptian-born man (Omar Metwally) is sent to an unnamed North African country where torture is practiced, with the CIA in approval. The film takes a Crash dive through how this affects various people: his pregnant American wife (Reese Witherspoon), the reluctant CIA agent (Jake Gyllenhaal) on the scene, a severe interrogator (Yigal Naor), all the way up to a U.S. terrorism honcho (Meryl Streep) willing to turn a blind eye to the unpleasantness if it stops a terrorist attack. Things spark briefly when Witherspoon enlists an old beau (Peter Sarsgaard) to plead her case with his boss, a U.S. Senator (Alan Arkin), but for the most part director Gavin Hood (Totsi) can't find a way to color in these line drawings, despite the formidable actors doing spirited work. The issue is fully and lucidly explained, but the movie doesn't come alive. (Robert Horton)
In 2001, four Pakistani Britons, Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul and another friend, Monir, travel to Pakistan for a wedding and in a urge of idealism, decide to see the situation of war torn Afganistan which is being bombed by the American forces in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once there, with the loss of Monir in the wartime chaos, they are captured by Northern Alliance fighters. They are then handed over to the American forces who transport them to the prison camps at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. What follows is three years of relentless imprisonment, interrogations and torture to make them submit to blatantly wrong confessions to being terrorists. In the midst of this abuse, the three struggle to keep their spirits up in the face of this grave injustice. (Written by Kenneth Chisholm for IMDb)
One of the landmark films of the 1940s. The screenplay was written by Roberto Rossellini (with Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei) while Rome was still occupied by German forces in 1943-44. Rossellini began filming in secret, using scavenged film stock without sound equipment, shortly before the city was liberated in June of 1944. Several key members of his creative team had been active in the Italian resistance movement. With its rough, documentary-style look, multi-layered narrative, the film captured the harsh and unforgiving textures of real life as few movies of its time had dared. It set the pace for Italian Neorealism as an influential postwar film style that combined outdoor light and location shooting with non-actors, a focus on simple stories of everyday life, and a concern for the poor and for social problems. It shows the lives of a group of people living in Rome during the Nazi occupation, after the Germans had declared it an "open city." Anna Magnani plays a woman in love with a member of a resistance group; in helping him, she risks not only her own life, but also that of her unborn child. Aldo Fabrizi plays a priest who aids the anti-Nazi cause and pays dearly for his activism. Marcello Pagliero is an outspoken communist who runs afoul of the Nazis. And Harry Feist plays a German officer who has taken an Italian lover, but whose affection for Romans does not run especially deep.
Saving Private Ryan (1999), Director: Steven Spielberg, Running time: 169 minutes.
Director Steven Spielberg's World War II tour de force chronicles the journey of a GI squad on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), the unit is under orders to track down a soldier, Private Ryan (Matt Damon), so he might return home to his mother in America, where she is grieving the unimaginable loss of her three other sons to the war. The first unforgettable 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan realistically and horrifically depicts the Normandy invasion as Miller, his second-in-command, Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore), and the others in the unit land at Omaha Beach.
The Sand Pebbles (1966), Director: Robert Wise, Running time: 182 minutes.
The Sand Pebbles tells many stories. It's the story of China, a slumbering giant that rouses itself to the cries of its people—and of the Americans who are caught in its blood awakening. It's the story of Frenchy (Richard Attenborough), a crewman on the U.S.S. San Pablo who kidnaps his Chinese bride from the auction block. It's the story of Shirley (Candice Bergen), a teacher and her first unforgettable taste of love. It's the story of Captain Collins (Richard Crenna), ready to defy anyone for his country's defense. Most of all, it's the story of Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), a sailor who has given up trying to make peace with anything - including himself. McQueen gives what is probably the best performance of his career. It's not surprising that he, Mako and the movie were up for Oscars. Portraying a character with conflicting loyalties to friend and flag, McQueen expertly conveys the confusion that leads into his final line: "What the hell happened?" It's to his credit that we already know.
Winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, it also won every major Best Picture Awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Producers Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics, the Chicago, Boston and Dallas Film Critics; a Christopher Award; and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe Awards. Steven Spielberg was further honored with the Directors Guild of America Award.
The film presents the indelible true story of the enigmatic Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, womanizer, and war profiteer who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference, and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in human history because of what he did. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film, which also won Academy Awards for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music, Editing, and Art Direction, stars an acclaimed cast headed by Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, and Embeth Davidtz.
A flawless work (The New Yorker) from Oscar winner Ingmar Bergman, Shame probes the atrocities of war both internal and external as a young couple struggles to survive while the world around them crumbles into chaos. On a remote island far removed from a raging civil war, Jan and Eva (Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann) retreat to their apolitical fortress: a small vegetable farm. But their serene existence is shattered when soldiers violently invade their home. Now caught in the crosshairs of a brutal and inhuman conflict, Jan and Eva become survivors with only one concern to endure.
Sir! No Sir! (2006), Director: David Zeiger, Running time: 84 minutes
Easily the most timely and resonant film about the soldiers on the front lines of anti-war resistance, the award-winning breakout theatrical hit Sir! No Sir! tells an almost entirely forgotten story of the military men and women who helped force the U.S. government to end the Vietnam War. Contrary to the popular image of long-haired hippies spitting on returning soldiers, Sir! No Sir! vividly demonstrates that GIs were the heart and soul of the anti-war movement. Poignantly narrated by a diverse cast of veteran GI resisters who recall the ferocious days of peace marches and stiff jail sentences, Sir! No Sir! pulls no punches in its raw depiction of the power of people, especially those in uniform. Directed by David Zeiger, Sir! No Sir! is "powerful stuff, offering us not only a new look at the past, but to the unavoidably relevant insights into the present" (New York Daily News).
Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), Director: George Roy Hill, Running time: 104 minutes.
Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) has a problem with time: he keeps jumping about in his own life, principally between three key scenes. The "present" is a kind of glowing suburban bliss involving a dutiful wife, large house, and presidency of the local Lions; the "past" is being a prisoner of World War II and experiencing the firebombing of Dresden from the wrong side; the "future" takes place in a glass dome on the planet Tralfamadore, to which Billy has been mysteriously spirited along with the woman of his fantasies (Montana Wildhack, played by Valerie Perrine). It isn't meant to make too much sense, since the point is to represent a man (and a century) that has witnessed things too unbearable for a wholly sane person to make sense of. In fact author Kurt Vonnegut's anguished cry on the insanity of war is one of those completely unfilmable books, so director George Roy Hill gets points even for trying. The whole package is thought provoking in a wholly Vonnegutian way. (Richard Farr for Amazon. com)
Soldier Blue (1970), Director: Ralph Nelson, Running time: 112 minutes.
This excessively violent western finds Cresta Marybelle Lee (Candice Bergen) and US Army Private Honus Gant (Peter Strauss) the only survivors of an Indian massacre. The two live with the Cheyennes for two years before they manage to escape. Isaac Cumber (Donald Pleasence) is the white trader who sells guns to the Indians. Cresta tries to warn the tribe that they will be massacred by the soldiers. When the Indians try to surrender, their pleas for mercy are ignored. Women are raped, children are killed and the entire village is burned to the ground. The film tries to draw parallels between the war in Vietnam and the extermination of the Indians a century earlier. There is no middle ground or shades of gray as the Indians are portrayed as good and the soldiers as bad.
Sophie's Choice (1982), Director: Alan J. Pakula, Running time: 150 minutes.
A young would-be writer named Stingo (Peter MacNicol) shares a boarding house with beautiful Polish immigrant Sophie (Meryl Streep) and her tempestuous lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline); their friendship changes his life. This adaptation of the bestselling novel by William Styron is faithful to the point of being reverential, which is not always the right way to make a film come to life. But director Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men) provides a steady, intelligent path into the harrowing story of Sophie, whose flashback memories of the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp form the backbone of the movie. Streep's exceptional performance—flawless Polish accent and all—won her an Oscar, and effectively raised the standard for American actresses of her generation. No less impressive is Kevin Kline, in his movie debut, capturing the mercurial moods of the dangerously attractive Nathan. The two worlds of Sophie's Choice, nostalgic Brooklyn and monstrous Europe, are beautifully captured by the gifted cinematographer Néstor Almendros, whose work was Oscar-nominated but didn't win. It should have. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), Director: Marc Rothemund, Running time: 117 minutes.
2005 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Sophie Scholl - The Final Days is the true story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine brought to thrilling, dramatic life. Sophie Scholl stars Julia Jentsch in a luminous performance as the fearless activist of the underground student resistance group, The White Rose. Armed with long-buried historical records of her incarceration, director Marc Rothemund expertly re-creates the last six days of Sophie Scholl's life: a heart-stopping journey from arrest to interrogation, trial and sentence in 1943 Munich. Unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to her comrades, her cross-examination by the Gestapo quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless.
The Sorrow and the Pity (1972), Director: Marcel Ophuls, Running time: 251 minutes.
A chronicle of a French city under the occupation. Director Marcel Ophuls combined interviews and archival film footage to explore the reality of the French occupation in one small industrial city, Clermont-Ferrand. He spoke with resistance fighters, collaborators, spies, farmers, government officials, writers, artists and veterans. The result is a shattering portrait of how ordinary people actually conducted themselves under extraordinary circumstances. By turns gripping, horrifying, and inspiring, Academy Award nominee The Sorrow and the Pity is a triumph of humanist filmmaking and a testament to the power of cinema.
SPIN: The Art of Selling the War (2007), Director: Josh Rushing, Running time: 23 minutes.
Directed by Josh Rushing, a veteran Marine Corps media spokesman, SPIN: The Art of Selling War is an investigative documentary that looks at the standard justification for going to war by the American administrations of past and present.
Stalag 17 (1953), Director: Billy Wilder, Running time: 120 minutes.
Billy Wilder's adaptation of the Broadway hit stars William Holden as the cynical Sefton. Set in the eponymous German prison camp during WWII, the director's broad, black comedy focuses on a group of decidedly unheroic prisoners. While they spend most of their time trying to entertain each other with comedy routines and pin-ups, they also occasionally entertain thoughts of escape. But escape is the last thing on the mind of the hard, calculating Sefton, a wheeler-dealer who's salted away a stash of creature comforts which are the envy of the barracks. When a couple of prisoners are killed while attempting to escape, Sefton collects the money he won by betting against their success, and many believe that it was he who informed the Germans. After a new prisoner, Lt. Dunbar (Don Taylor) talks openly about having bombed a German ammo train, he's immediately subjected to a harsh interrogation by sadistic commandant Oberst von Scherbach (Otto Preminger). Their suspicions confirmed, the prisoners take revenge against Sefton.
It's tempting to call this harrowing picture a World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front: both films take the perspective of ordinary German soldiers at ground level. Stalingrad surveys the misery of the battle of Stalingrad, the winter siege that cost the lives of almost one and a half million people, Russian defenders and German invaders alike. Not unlike Spielberg's approach to Saving Private Ryan, German director Joseph Vilsmaier rarely steps outside the action to comment on the higher purpose of the war, assuming the audience is aware of the evil of the Nazi regime. Instead, we simply follow a group of soldiers as they endure a series of gut-wrenching episodes, events which have the tang of authenticity and horror. Vilsmaier has a taste for symbolism and surreal touches, which only add to the unsettling sense of insanity this movie conjures up so well. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)
Streamers (1983), Director: Robert Altman, Running time: 118 minutes.
Four young recruits about to be sent to Vietnam to confront their prejudicial feelings toward one another when it's learned one of them is homosexual. (Written by Humberto Amador for IMDb)
One woman trapped with a crew of desperate men. Winner of two awards at the 1954 Berlin International Film Festival, Submarine Attack stars Lois Maxwell (James Bond's "Miss Moneypenny") and an all-star international cast in a thrilling WWII ocean epic that tells a unique tale of profound humanity. When an Italian U-boat torpedoes a Danish freighter in the treacherous seas of the North Atlantic, the captain of the sub makes the noble decision to bring the ship's survivors onboard. But in order to save the lives of these men, the captain must leave his own vessel exposed to enemy attack and travel above the water line for 700 miles. Under these difficult circumstances, both captors and captives develop a mutual respect and camaraderie that transcends their wartime conflict.
Swing Kids (1993), Director: Thomas Carter II, Running time: 114 minutes.
In 1939 Hamburg, Germany, a group of teenagers express their rebellion against Adolph Hitler's Nazi regime through their affection for American swing music, British fashion, and Harlem slang. American and British big-band jazz records are among those banned by the Fuhrer, but the young men secretly get together with their friends to listen and dance to the music. As their escapades become increasingly bold, they each get into trouble with the authorities. Robert Sean Leonard stars as Peter, who ends up being forced—by a prank—into having to join the Hitler Youth with his friend Thomas (Christian Bale). They are both engineering students at the university, where Thomas' father was taken away for defending his Jewish colleagues. With Arvid (Frank Whaley), they pretend to be Nazi supporters by day while rebelling with the swing music by night. Kenneth Branagh, in an un-credited appearance, is a glib Nazi Gestapo chief who makes matters more difficult. Each of the boys must choose among family, safety, friendship, and freedom as politics impinge on their youthful exuberance, and the Nazis set them against one another. (Michael Betzold, All Movie Guide)