List by-Jarrett Leahy
With today being Memorial Day, I thought I’d take the time to create a quick Top 6 List in its honor. At first I was just going to list my personal favorites, but films like The Deer Hunter and Saving Private Ryan have rightfully been revered and discussed more times than can be counted. So instead, I just wanted to share a little love of a few films that may have missed your movie radar. I hope you’re all having a nice holiday, and Happy Memorial Day to all service men, women, and veterans from AmateurCinephile.com…
6. Waltz With Bashir (2008) As a way of reassembling suppressed memories about his own personal military service during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman decided to interview some of his veteran friends in the hopes that their recollections will help jar his memory. Through the astonishingly hypnotic use of digital paintings and Flash animation, Folman creates a haunting retelling of the wartime atrocities he had long since forgotten. Waltz With Bashir is truly a unique cinema experience I suspect few have forgotten once seen.
5. The Messenger (2009) Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster team up in this poignant film about the thankless assignment of military casualty notification officers. Rarely has the somber topic of casualty notification ever been explored in cinema, and director Oren Moverman does a masterful job of not over-sensationalizing such a painful theme, instead offering an authentic look at the anguish and frustrations these officers experience on a daily basis.
4. Brothers (2009) Another excellent war film from 2009, when Marine Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) goes missing in Afghanistan after his helicopter crashes, Cahill’s younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to comfort Sam’s wife Grace (Portman) as she deals with the grief of possibly losing her husband. A film blessed with three impressive performances, Portman perfectly captures the emotional trauma inflicted on a spouse during a wartime tragedy.
3. Come and See (1985) After coming across a combat rifle, a young boy decides to join the Soviet Army to fight the Germans during WWII. Despairingly ineffective and overmatched by the unyielding German Army, the boy loses his youthful innocence as he witnesses firsthand the barbaric atrocities the Nazis inflicted on his fellow countrymen. While many films portray the western front of WWII, Come and See shows how equally devastating the Nazis were to the Russians on the eastern front. A truly frightening cinema experience.
2. Army of Shadows (1969) Tension packed to the max, Army of Shadows is the retelling of the little known story of the underground resistance fighters who risked their lives to help fight the Nazi occupation of France. The greatness of French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, who died back in 1973 at the age 55, is still being discovered by cinema fans around the world thanks to Criterion Collection’s release of many of his masterpieces including Army of Shadows.
1. Das Boot (1981) Taglined, “This is the story of 42 raw recruits caught up in a war they didn’t understand, and the Captain who must lead them in their struggle to survive,” cinephiles have long known that Das Boot is not only one of the greatest war films ever made, but one of the greatest films period. Originally created as a tv-miniseries, director Wolfgang Petersen cut down his footage to create a two-and-a-half-hour theatrical version and later released an even more superior director’s cut that offers approximately an hour more of footage. Petersen skillfully puts the viewer into the claustrophobic confines of a WWII German U-Boat, experiencing the boredom and frustration of hours of downtime, followed by the sheer terror of coming under attack, not knowing if the submarine keeping them alive will turn into their ocean grave. Some may be a bit reluctant to watch a film about a German unit, but I assure you that the politics of the film remains neutral, as these young soldiers just try to survive the horrors of nautical warfare.-JL