Obnoxious and Unlikable War Movie Characters

I was thinking today, why shouldn´t  I write a post on the war movie characters I hate most? Obviously I am not talking bad acting here. On the very contrary, it is maybe more difficult to play a truly unlikable and obnoxious character. A true bully or a monster like Hitler. Bruno Ganz who stars as Hitler in The Downfall aka Der Untergang apparently refused the role at first whereas I believe I remember having read, Anthony Hopkins found his role in The Bunker to be particularly challenging and he did enjoy such a challenge.

But apart from  extreme  evil historical people like Hitler, there are numerous mean characters populating war movies. The list I made are those that came to my mind easily, those I will never forget, no matter how many years have passed since I last saw the movie. Often those really evil people are paired with good ones like in Platoon, Casualties of War and Cross of Iron.

Here´s my list of war movie impersonations of meanness or just plain unlikable geeks.

Gny. Sgt Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) in Full Metal Jacket. THE Boot Camp Devil.

Herbert M. Sobel (David Schwimmer) in Band of Brothers. Mean and dumb.

Sgt Barnes (Tom Berenger) in Platoon. How evil and sadistic can you possibly be?

Lt. Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) in The Blue Max. Over ambitious with and inferiority complex. An annoyingly obnoxious arriviste.

Cpt Hauptmann Stransky (Maximilian Schell) in Cross of Iron. A conceited, arrogant upper-class Prussian officer.

Sgt. Tony Meserve (Sean Penn) in Casualties of War. An abusive rapist.

Lance Cpl Harold James Trombley (Billy Lush) in Generation Kill. Total lack of feeling, an empty shell.

I am not sure which one I consider to be the worst. I guess either Sgt. Barnes or Hauptmann Stransky.

I am sure the world of war movies contains many more bad people than those I just mentioned. Who is your most hated character?

Company K (2004): Most Probably one of the Worst War Movies Ever

I have watched the reaction of many men to pain, hunger and death, but all I have learned is that no two men react alike, and that no one man comes through the experience unchanged. (William March)

The above quote is taken from William March´s novel Company K on which this movie is based. The book is largely autobiographical and apparently one of the most convincing anti-war statements that has ever been written. That sounds like a great premise and, boy, was I looking forward to watch this. But unfortunately great intentions don´t guarantee a good movie. If they did this would not have turned out to be one of my very worst war movie experiences. Company K is horribly bad.

As I am a sucker for great score the music was one of the first things I noticed while watching Company K. Awful music. Maybe great in a horror movie or to illustrate what it sounds like to go to the dentist. Honestly, this score drove me up every single wall of my apartment.

It is a pity as the intentions behind this sorry effort are good, and the first few minutes when we see Joseph Delaney, aka William March, the main character how he  tries to tell his story, are promising but from then on it gets worse and worse. The acting is as bad as can be and the idea to just let us catch glimpses of the men Delaney served with is exasperating.

Delaney volunteered with the Marine Corps in WWI. Soon after arriving his company is attacked near Verdun. Trench scenes, battle scenes, mustard gas attacks, all quite eloquent if it wasn´t for the acting and this mad jumping from one character to the next.

Company K is one of those movies who gets either 1 or 5 stars. Odd, right? I hated it but if anyone who liked it reads this, tell me why.

For anybody who would like to read more about it here is  Company K´s Homepage.

If you watch it and are bored out of your mind and annoyed by the pesky music… Don´t come here complaining, I warned you!

1 star.

Rescue Dawn (2006) or One Man´s Ordeal in a Vietcong Prison Camp

Dieter Dengler, a young American fighter pilot of German origins, is shot down over Laos, in 1965, just when the Vietnam war is about to start. Naïve and enthusiastic he doesn’t think that much harm could come his way but when he is captured by Vietcong he learns otherwise. Thanks to his astonishing resourcefulness, his unabashed optimism and his sense for camaraderie he survives the worst imaginable circumstances. He endures torture, hunger, pain and humiliations by sadistic guards, petty accusations and nagging by fellow prisoners. He carefully plans their escape and finally succeeds, only to find his ordeal is not over.

Werner Herzog is known for movies that often have lush jungle vegetation as a backdrop. No difference here. The same cinematographic language that I knew from movies like Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde and Grizzly Man that have made Herzog famous. The beauty of the forest, the plants and giant insects are captured here as well, but  then the comparison to other movies stops. Rescue Dawn was one of the most revolting films I have ever seen. Probably it is shockingly true to the events that Dieter Dengler had to endure, nevertheless I found it hard to watch. Seeing people eat handfuls of larvae and maggots was not my cup of tea. Sure it is well done and all but yuk, yuk, yuk.

Apart from being disgusted I am also awed. It´s incredible what some people can endure and how they manage to survive the worst.

Christian Bale is very good although  he acts quite badly at the beginning. Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davis are outstanding.

Required viewing for Werner Herzog fans, POW movie fans and every one like me mad enough to think they have to see every decent war movie no matter what´s at stake for the stomach nerves.

Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin aka Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925): A Painful Movie Experience

Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is one of the great cinema classics and the first time a movie was dedicated to a Revolutionary act. It tells the story of a mutiny that took place in 1905 and was followed by a street massacre. The crew of the Battleship rebelled against their officers.

Some of the scenes, like the one posted below, dubbed “Odessa Steps”, have written film history.

Be it as it may, I suffered all through the viewing of this film. I found it agonizingly boring. Maybe I am just not a silent movie person although I seem to remember I have seen a few that I liked.

Still, I quite like the Odessa steps scene but the parts on the ship with the long takes on machines and guns are excruciating.

We have to bear in mind that this movie is also an eloquent piece of propaganda.

Arn: Knight Templar aka Arn: Tempelriddaren (2007) or A Fantastic Movie about the Crusades

What a fantastic movie. A lavish historical epic with likable characters and a great story. So much better than Kingdom of Heaven although that is not a bad movie at all. Only, I did not care much about the characters and the story. Big difference here. Arn: Knight Templar makes you care. You want to know what happens, you feel outrage when the main characters suffer wrong and you admire them and enjoy watching them.

Based on the novels by Jan Guillou this multinational co-production (we hear at least 5 different languages: Swedish, English, French, Arabic and Latin) centers on Arn, the son of a Swedish noble man. He falls in love with Cecilia, who is promised to another man. When their love is found out they are sentenced. Cecilia is to spend her days in a convent, Arn must join the Knight Templars and travel to the Holy Land. He will experience the brutality of the Crusades but still remain true to himself and stay just, courageous and open-minded. Cecilia on her side endures many hardships. The worst is certainly that they take away her newborn son, as he has been conceived in sin.

We see many a battle scene, breathtaking landscapes (the movie was filmed in Sweden, Scotland and Morocco) and we wonder once more how people can fight bloody battles in the name of religion.

Even though a major part of it,  the battles, the fights and the beauty of the scenery are not the the only good aspects of the movie. The depiction of the Middle Ages, centering on a bloodthirsty Catholicism,  is what makes this movie memorable. How horrible the Catholicism of those times has been, with its belief in sin and eternal damnation, its attempt to spread the faith all over this world, and even in bringing warfare to every corner of the earth. And the way they treated women and people of other faiths… Abominable.

Last but not least this is also a beautiful love story.

The cast is quite interesting. We see, once more, Stellan Skarsgard, but also Vincent Perez, Milind Soman, Bibi Andersson (she gives a chilling performance as a frankly sadistic nun), Sofia Helin and, starring as Arn, Joakim Nätterqvist.

I have a seen the shorter version. There are apparently two. I believe the longer one is better. A word of caution: there is some weird jumping in the time going on. This needs some getting used to. Maybe it is due to the cuts.

Be it as it may, watch it as soon as you can. You won´t regret it.