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Mike's
War Films of Note


Big Red One, 1980
Samuel Fuller's acclaimed Second World War tale of cameraderie and violence, starring Lee Marvin and a post-Star Wars Mark Hamill. The film chronicles the movements of a squad from the 1st US Infantry Division ('The Big Red One') through the World War II, from a beachhead assault in North Africa, through France, Sicily and Belgium, up to the horror of liberating a Nazi concentration camp. War is reduced to its graphic essentials in Fuller's no-holds-barred style and and Marvin brilliantly portrays the nameless battle-hardened sergeant leading the young GIs.

Memphis Belle, 1990
A 2nd World War drama from Brit director Caton-Jones. The crew of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber, have to make one final bombing raid over Europe before they complete their 25th mission and are able to return home. Their task is to bomb a Nazi supply factory in Bremen, which if missed could lead to many civilians losing their lives.

El Cid, 1961
With a budget bigger than a small country's GDP, a beautiful cast, a fine score and a cracking story this is a superb technicolor epic. Heston's heroic impassivity is perfect for the role of the semi-legendary 11th-century warrior hero who drove the Moors from Spain. At the climax, worthy of the Spanish epics and ballads on the same subject, he ends up as a rigid corpse strapped to a horse leading his men to victory. Anthony Mann's epic towers over all others of the same type.

Cromwell, 1970
Boasting lavish sets, costumes and a British cast to die for, this biopic of the Protestant leader who caused the downfall of Charles I and ruled the country briefly between monarchs takes some liberties with historical accuracy, but is so well made that it gets away with it. Unusually, Richard Harris' Cromwell comes across as la fanatical God-botherer, ultimately leaving audience sympathy to rest with Alec Guinness as the doomed king whose head is destined for the block. As long as you don't rely on the film for your history essay you'll be in for a treat.

Land and Freedom, 1995
A stirring account of the Spanish Civil War from Ken Loach, in which a young Liverpudlian communist leaves the homestead to battle against fascism on the Med. However, his idealism is quickly crushed by the horrors of the combat unfolding before him, while party politics rear their head and complicate matters further. Told largely in flashback, as the grand daughter of Hart's character discovers his possessions after his death, this is about as moving an account of war as you're likely to see.

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