In which Throne of Blood's versatile art director Andrew Potter takes you through his favorite movies about war. Make it rain, Andrew.
James, my manager, label boss and good buddy has known me for a while and therefore is familiar with my love of movies, especially war movies. When he asked me to make a blog post about them I said I happily would. There’s so many good ones, it is rather hard to make a definitive list, so I won’t. Many will probably look at this list and go, “Hey! Where’s Apocalypse Now?” It’s one of my favorite movies, and on every list, along with some other quality Vietnam War movies like Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon.
The weird thing is that since I met my Vietnamese girlfriend and her family, it’s been harder for me to watch them. Maybe they hit too close to home. I always ended up thinking about what awful assholes the Americans were and how it was such a pointless war. So to continue in that vein, I am also going to leave off movies about the Iraq War (Although the Hurt Locker is undoubtedly good) because that war is really stupid and embarrassing as well. I will try and limit this list to the great fights. All these movies, with probably the exception of “Come and See” are also movies that I have seen many times, I can watch anytime, and if it’s on TV, I will have to watch it til the end. If you are wondering where “Saving Private Ryan Is, “ I have to tell you that no one in good conscience can include a movie with Tom Hanks.
So here they are in no particular order:
Come and See (1985)
The title is taken from The Apocalypse of John where it is used as an invitation to witness the destruction reaped by the four horsemen of the apocalypse, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." The reference is an apt one as this movie is pure hell. This Russian film depicts the Nazi occupation of the Byelorussain SSR during WW2. They had to wait 8 years for approval and was the film was eventually produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soviet’s victory in WW2. Come and See blurs the line between war movie, horror movie and psychedelic/psychological thriller. There are many moments that stick with you for a long long time after. Proceed with caution!
The Thin Red Line (1998)
A meditation on man, war and nature. Not only one of my favorite war movies but also one of my favorite movies, period. Not for everyone though. Terrance Malik usually divides audiences with his movies. Some feel they are too uppity or slow, but I find them quite beautiful. This film, like all his others, is also technically amazing. It uses little to no CGI and is shot completely in natural light. It was nominated for multiple Academy Awards and won none of them.
Starship Troopers (1997)
As a director, Paul Verhoeven of Showgirls and Robocop fame is probably the antithesis of Terrance Malik. This movie is part science fiction war movie, part comedy. The whole thing has an idiot savant feel and I love it even more now that it looks dated. It is hard to believe that this film cost $100 million to make and it’s based on a Hugo Award winning novel from the 60s. According to Verhoeven, the film also has a higher message. In the DVD commentary, Verhoeven states the film shows how: "War makes fascists of us all." To me, the movie is pure entertainment. It’s filled with shitty TV actors, hilarious lines, plenty of gory action sequences, and zero of the existential grey areas of other war movies. Those bugs just got to go.
The Great Escape (1963)
Ultimate Manly Man Steve McQueen at his best. I absolutely loved this movie as a kid. Although there are eventually some deaths and a rather heartbreaking moment near the end, it’s almost a “G Rated” World War 2 movie — if there is such a thing. The German jailors aren’t Nazis, and they are depicted in a rather humanizing way. The whole film has a school detention feel where the British and American POW’s are kind of like rebellious, mischievous kids. Also, it’s based on a true story.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Say what you want about Russell Crow. He’s a choad; I know, but he’s a rather lovable one. Gladiator? Come on. I really love Master and Commander, but maybe I am a little biased since I also love sailing and the sea. The film depicts an epic game of cat and mouse between two ship captains during the Napoleonic War. The sound design by Richard King is as good as it gets. He went to great lengths to capture the real sounds of naval battle and destructive storms, including using vintage 24 and 12 pound cannons, exploding wooden barrels and pulling a wooden frame rigged with a 1,000 feet of line behind a pick up truck driven into the wind.