It goes very well with my previous post on Lord of the Rings in which he dies one of the more dramatic deaths of his career.
“Winter is coming. There is a war coming.”
I’m not going to bore you with any justification why I included Game of Thrones in my war movie blog. There are a few good explanations other than that I LOVE this series. I’m a sucker for epic fantasy, it’s my favourite guilty pleasure. Although compared to Lord of the Rings, this series has elements of Braveheart, King Arthur, 300, Rome, Centurion and Gladiator. Game of Thrones is a large-scale genre blend that is like nothing I have ever seen on TV before.
I have just watched the first episodes and really love it. I haven’t read the books by George R. R. Martin yet (we are talking 3000+ pages) but I’m seriously tempted before watching more of the series.
The series starts with a scene in a snow-covered forest. A small group of men, the Night Watch, encounters something unspeakable. Most of them will not survive the encounter. The only survivor is brought before Lord Stark (Sean Bean). The explanation he gives for what spurred his cowardly escape is strange, he says to have seen an ancient evil that hasn’t been lurking in the forest for 2000 years. Since he is not believed, he is sentenced.
Lord Stark is the master of Winterfell. The Starks are only one influential family in the divided world of Westeros. Intrigues and fights for the throne are constant, no family can trust an other one and even inside of one family there may be traitors. Winterfell lies in the North, King’s Landing, where King Baratheos reigns, lies in the South. Border between the North and the wild that outstretches far beyond the horizon is the Wall, a barrier made out of pure ice. The Night Watch is in charge of guarding the Wall. Being sent to the Wall is a questionable honor. The most able fighters are dispatched together with convicts, orphans and other outcasts.
In the first series we are introduced to four different families and the story moves between them. This is all quite fascinating and there are some interesting and complex characters to be discovered. What makes for an especially intense atmosphere is the threat of war and winter. This is a world in which seasons follow another rhythm than in ours. Winter can last longer than three years or not come at all for decades. It can be intense or light but it always brings unspeakable things, unrest and war. At the beginning of the series all the wise old men and women whisper to one another, they say that winter is coming and that it will be long and awful.
Do you like Lord of the Rings? Did you like Rome, King Arthur, 300 and Centurion? Are you a Sean Bean fan? Do you consider epic fantasy and action movies to be worthy of your attention? If so, I guess that you have to watch this stunning new HBO series.
Last but not least, this isn’t a series for prudish people. The episodes showing the Dothraki people and their wild ways and interactions with their women includes quite a bit of nudity.
It would be very hard for me not to watch a movie starring Sean Bean and that is why I was looking forward to Age of Heroes a movie based on the true story of Ian Fleming’s Commando Unit. Lucky yesterday wasn’t one of my impatient days or I wouldn’t have finished it. It would have been too bad as the movie improves considerably after the first 15 extremely dodgy minutes are over. But, judging from the ratings on IMDb, people didn’t forgive the movie its beginning…
Age of Heroes follows a British special forces unit on a crucial mission called “Operation Grendel”. The men, being part of Ian Fleming‘s so-called Commando unit, one of the first special forces units, have undergone a very hard training. They are led by a hard but funny training officer (William Houston) and their highly appreciated leader Major Jones (Sean Bean). Jones is one of the best leaders I’ve seen in a war movie. He is tough but just, clever, courageous and not without kindness. Part of the unit is the Norwegian born American Steinar (Axel Hennie, Max Manus). This makes a lot of sense as the mission takes place behind enemy lines in occupied Norway. The Commando unit will have to drop in Norway and get some German radars in order to analyze them. The whole operation has been planned and is closely supervised by Ian Fleming (James D’Arcy) in London. A lot of what he experienced during the war when he was an assistant of the Director of Naval Intelligence was later used in his James Bond novels.
Needless to say that this was a dangerous suicide mission and, typical for this type of endeavor, many things went wrong and people died. As we get to know the characters well before they go on their mission, we care for them. One of them is introduced early, in the unfortunately weird beginning that takes place in France, and we get to know and like the others in the British training camp.
All in all it was an entertaining movie if somewhat flawed. It is flawed because it reminded me of some recent Resistance movies and lack of originality is a flaw. But it was also flawed because the film makers seem not to have been decided whether they wanted this to be more of an action or more of a war flick. The story is a war story but the movie is told like an action film.
If you like Sean Bean and have never heard of the Commando unit, the precursor of the SAS, you will enjoy watching it and, due to the action twist it is quite gripping.
I watched the Hornblower series last year and enjoyed it very much. I re-watched Master & Commander and thought once again that it is really a good movie. Finally I discovered the Sharpe series with Sean Bean and I like it a great deal as well (at least those I have seen so far). Considering that they are all based on the Napoleonic Wars, I thought it might be high time to see what else there is. I found quite a few movies, some I have seen a long time ago, like Abel Gance’s Napoléon, and others that I still would like to watch. I also included movies on the man himself as I figured there will not be many biopics on Napoléon leaving out the wars. When I was a child I went through a bit of a Napoléon obsession and remember contemplating his wax figure at the Musée Grévin in Paris with awe. I should have been awed that even as a ten-year old child I wasn’t that much smaller. There are quite a lot of German and French productions of the topic. I did include them although not all of them have been subtitled.
The movies that I would like to watch soon are Waterloo with Rod Steiger, the mini-series Napoléon and Ridley Scott’s The Duellists.
- Napoléon directed by Abel Gance (France/black&white/epic silen 1927) Albert Dieudonné
- The Last Company aka Die letzte Kompanie directed by Curtis Bernhardt (GE 1930) Conrad Veidt, Karin Evans, Erwin Kalser, Paul Henckels, Else Heller
- Der schwarze Husar directed by Gerhard Lamprecht (GE 1932) Bernhard Goetzke, Conrad Veidt, Mady Christians, Franz Stein
- Black Fighter Johanna aka Schwarzer Jäger Johanna directed by Johannes Meyer (GE 1934) Marianne Hoppe, Paul Hartmann, Gustaf Gründgens, Fita Benkhoff, Paul Bildt, Rudolf Biebrac
- Kolberg directed by Veit Harlan (GE 1945) Kristina Söderbaum, Heinrich George, Paul Wegener, Horst Caspar, Gustav Diessl
- Captain Horatio Hornblower directed by Raoul Walsh (US 1951) Gregory Peck und Virginia Mayo
- Attack from the Sea aka Korabli shturmuyut bastiony directed by Michail Romm (Soviet Union 1953) Ivan Pereverzev, Ivan Solovyov
- Napoléon directed by Sacha Guitry – (IT/FR 1955) Jean-Pierre Aumond, Sacha Guitry, Danielle Darieux
- War and Peace directed by King Vidor (US 1956) Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn, Anita Ekberg
- The Pride and the Passion directed by Stanley Kramer (US 1957) Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren
- Austerlitz dierceted by Abel Gance (FR/IT/YU/Lie 1960) Pierre Mondy, Claudia Cardinale, Orson Welles
- Eine Handvoll Helden directed by Fritz Umgelter (GE/ IT 1967) Horst Frank, Jörg Pleva, Volkert Kraeft, Martin Lüttge, Rolf Becker
- Voyna i mir aka War and Peace directed by Sergei Bondartschuk (Soviet Unnion 1968) Sergei Bondartschuk, Ljudmila Saweljew
- Waterloo directed by Sergei Bondartschuk (IT/ Soviet Union 1970) Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, Orson Welles (see my review)
- The Duellists directed by Ridley Scott (UK 1977) Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine, Albert Finney
- Napoleon & Josephine: A Love Story (US 1987 mini-series) Armand Assante
- Napóleon (Hungary 1989 TV) Péter Rudolf
- Napoléon et l’Europe (FR 1991 TV series) Jean-François Stévenin
- Sharpe (GB 1993–2008, TV series, 16 parts) Sean Bean, John Tams, Elizabeth Hurley, Pete Postlethwaite (see my review)
- Hornblower (GBR 1998-2003 mini-series, 8 parts) Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Michael Byrne (see my review)
- Napoléon directed by Yves Simoneau (FR/ GE/ IT/ CA/ US/ GB/ HUN/ SP/ CZE 2002 mini-series) Christian Clavier, Isabella Rossellini, Gérard Depardieu, John Malkovich, Heino Ferch
- 1809 – Andreas Hofer – Die Freiheit des Adlers directed by Xaver Schwarzenberger (AU/GE/IT 2002, TV) mit Tobias Moretti, Ottfried Fischer, Martina Gedeck, Gregor Bloéb
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World directed by Peter Weir, (US 2003) Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Max Pirkis, Billy Boyd
- Monsieur N by Antoine de Caunes (FR/UK 2003) Philippe Torreton
- Austerlitz, la victoire en marchant, directed by Jean-François Delassus (GE/ FR 2006) Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Julien Collard, Romain Redle
As ususal any comments, additions or ratings are highly welcome. The Duellists is a movie I wouldn’t have known of, if it hadn’t been for Guy Savage‘s recommendation in a comment.
Bravo Two Zero based on Andy McNab’s true account tells the story of a SAS mission that goes awfully wrong. The mission took place during the first Gulf war. McNab is the leader of a small special unit, mainly British and Australian SAS. They are dropped behind enemy lines where they should cut communication lines and take out scud missiles. In the event of their capture they should pretend to be part of a rescue team.
The mission goes wrong from the start as they are spotted by shepherds and their transmission system (their code word is Bravo Two Zero) doesn’t work. The only thing they can do is try to get to the Syrian border. The way leads them through enemy territory swarming with tanks and trucks, night temperatures dropping below zero and blizzard-like weather during the day. It seems impossibly hard to achieve. The small group has to face many combat situations where they are outnumbered but being far better trained and with better equipment they are not overpowered.
They advance slowly fighting not only enemies but hypothermia and end up separated. They are captured one by one. McNab thinks at first he is the only who has been captured but two of the others are held captive in the same place, one of them is his best friend. The Iraqis think that they are Israelis and torture and beat them up to get a confession. One would presume this would subside once it is apparent that they are British but the cruelties are intensified. The three men are in extremely bad shape, loosing their teeth, bruised and batered but they survive and ultimately get to tell the tale.
The end is somewhat questionable. We hear McNab’s voice in the off making fun of those who suffer from post-traumatic stress. He states that he is a soldier and he likes to be a soldier. What happened was part of the job. There is no place for post-traumatic stress. There is nothing he wouldn’t do again and he thinks that the enemies only did their job as well, they only seemed to have liked it a bit too much.
This is a fast-paced, action-packed movie. Gripping and I think very accurate and honest. How often do we see missions that go completely wrong? But it is certainly not an anti-war statement. On the very contrary. Sean Bean is very good in this. Some roles are just perfect for him, and this is one of them. I liked the beginning, when it is shown how they come together in England, getting ready for their tour. The music, the humour. There are also very funny scenes during the movie.
All in all, even though I have a nagging little voice in my head telling me it is not OK, I enjoyed this a great deal.