I don’t know about you, but I love Sunday afternoons. Sure, it’s the end of the weekend, there’s not a lot going on, and the specter of Monday morning and the working week hovers over your shoulder like an inheritance lawyer at a funeral; you know it’s coming, but you want to put it off for as long as possible. All this aside, it’s a chance to sit back, make some tea and have some cake, or maybe crack open a bottle of wine, if Saturday night will allow such a thing, and most importantly, put on a film. Now, I don’t want to watch anything that’s going to be too loud and violent, too much of an assault on the senses; on the other hand, I want to be able to stay awake, for the most part. So out are modern action films, or old Hollywood flicks; what I really like to watch are classic war films. There’s something comforting; you know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, you know who’s going to win, and there’s just the right amount of explosions to keep you awake.
Plus, there are plenty of terrible accents for extra amusement value.
So here, for your consideration, are four classic war films that I reckon you can’t do without. Obviously, this list isn’t by any means comprehensive, but that’s part of the beauty of it, no? In no particular order, then:
Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick)
Whilst not without its flaws (the final act gets a bit bogged down) this, for my money, is the best of the Vietnam films. Sure, Apocalypse Now has a grander scale, but this captures perfectly the individual experience, the humor, the pain, the futility. It’s both very, very funny and very, very sad.
633 Squadron (Walter Grauman)
Made in 1964, this tells the story of an RAF squadron assigned to attack a German factory making rocket fuel in Norway. It’s a nearly impossible assignment, the factory being set at the end of a fjord and covered by batteries of anti-aircraft guns. Think the death star run, but with wooden airplanes instead of x wings and lasers. Without wanting to give too much away, these were the days when you didn’t have to have a happy ending to everything.
Bridge Over the River Kwai (David Lean)
Based on the construction of the Burmese railway, when the Japanese army used captured British soldiers to build the bridges and rail works for the structure. It features two groups – some British soldiers constructing the eponymous bridge, and a small group of men who have been sent through the jungle to blow up the bridge. Of course, things don’t go exactly to plan, and the ending is pleasingly morally ambiguous.
Zulu (Cy Enfield)
Based on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, which took place during the Anglo-Zulu War. It is, essentially, a Western set in South Africa. Just like Westerns, to our modern eye, there is something deeply wrong with European (or American) power beating up on the locals. Nonetheless, it’s still a gripping film.
So there we are. Those are some of my favorites. What are yours?