Top 10 War Movies – The Guardian List

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This year I want to move back to what this blog was initially meant to be. A place where I would write about war movies and related themes, and not so much a blog, which is limited to reviews. As you may have noticed I was less and less present, not only because I was not so lucky with my movie choices  but also because I didn’t feel like writing as many reviews as before.

So, in order to kick off the new year, I’d thought I’d share with you this top 10 war movies list that I found on The Guardian website. It was published on October 28, 2013.

The top 10 war movies are

10. Where Eagles Dare

9. Rome, Open City

8. La Grande Illusion

7. The Deer Hunter

6. Three Kings

5. Come and See

4. Ran

3. The Thin Red Line

2. Paths of Glory

1. Apocalypse Now

It’s an interesting list and I’d say, they are all worthy movies, however there is only one among these that also makes my personal Top 10. Guess which one.

How about you? What do you think about this list?

Phantom (2013) Sub Movie with a Russian Point of View

Phantom

I discovered Phantom thanks to a comment on my post on U571 . Since it’s a new movie and it has been quite a while since I last saw a submarine movie and because I’m very fond of Ed Harris, I thought I’d give it a shot. While it’s maybe not among the top of the range, it was decent and had an unusual angle. This is a Cold War movie told entirely from a Russian perspective. It took some getting used to in the beginning that Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner all played Russians, but once I realized there wouldn’t be any American counterparts in this film, it was easier to accept. And I was very thankful that for once there were no fake Russian accents to endure.

The movie is set in 1968. The aging Captain of a submarine, Demi (Ed Harris), is assigned a final mission on an old submarine on which he served decades ago. Why he is assigned and what the mission is, isn’t said. He’s surprised to find out that two people he’s not familiar with will come aboard as well, not telling him why they join the mission.

Once on board strange things happen. A dog which isn’t there attacks the Captain, he sees people who die in a fire. We soon get to know that these are hallucinations and that the Captain suffers from epilepsy due to a head trauma. The backstory will be revealed later on.

Because he has an epileptic fit, things escalate quickly and loyalties are tested. Shortly after that the two strangers show their real faces and the movie turns into a thriller.

I can’t say too much or the movie would be spoilt. It’s based on a true event, the disappearance of a submarine in 1968, but that’s as historical as it gets. Nobody has ever found out what happened to said submarine. This movie just tries to imagine one possibility and the diea is quite chilling.

Phantom is a rather slow movie that takes a lot of time to show interior shots, which capture very well how narrow and claustrophobic it is in a submarine. There are hardly any outside shots as the bulk of the action takes place inside. The enemies, so to speak, are among the crew members, and finding out who is on which side is an important element.

Phantom doesn’t make my top submarine movie list, but it’s watchable, especially when you like Harris and Duchovny.

Movies on the Spanish Civil War: A List

Spirit of the Beehive

When I think of movies on the Spanish Civil War, Land and Freedom comes to mind. And Pan’s Labyrinth. And the abominable There Be Dragons. I was surprised to see that there are quite a lot and some of them seem to be well-worth watching. 

Do you have a favourite?

I might be watching one of these soon

Turtles Can Fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004) Iraqi – Iranian Movie on Children During Wartime

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Occasionally I’m tempted to stop watching war movies. After all, it’s hardly ever cheerful. But there is a huge difference between “not cheerful” and “utterly depressing”. And while combat movie’s are rarely cheerful, they are often not utterly depressing. On the other hand movies focussing on the way common people, and especially children, are affected by war, are often extremely depressing. Among all these depressing movies on the fate of the civilians the Iraqi-Iranian movie Turtles Can Fly, might be the saddest I’ve ever seen. While it’s an excellent film, it’s almost unbearably bleak.

The film starts with a small girl committing suicide. She jumps from a cliff. The story then rewinds and we get to know why she did it.

Somewhere near the Turkish border, just before the war in Iraq breaks out, a group of people live in some houses close to a refugee camp. The elders of the village hire a young boy to buy and install a satellite dish. They want to know if war is coming. The boy is funny, entrepreneurial, and clearly relishes being the only one who knows something about technology and a few English words. He’s maybe 12 or 14 years old (sorry I’m bad at judging the age of children) and runs many small businesses. One of them consists in having other children collect mines which he then sells on the local markets. The whole area is a huge minefield and collecting them is vital because as long as they are on the fields, the farmers cannot work.

Many of these children who collect mines are missing limbs from the one or the other unlucky encounter. The film maker used only children with real deformities and missing limbs which adds authenticity and makes watching it even more harrowing.

“Satellite”, as they call the young boy, falls in love with one of the refugee girls. A very pretty girl who is there without parents but with her older brother who has lost both arms and a small child who has a problem with his eyes. She is the girl who will commit suicide and to learn her story was almost too much.

While there are some funny scenes dedicated to “Satellite” and his business, I’ve rarely seen such a bleak movie. The poverty of these people is extreme. They live in the cold and the rain, there are hardly any trees or buildings, just some huts and tents and a lot of mud. Their situation has a lot to do with former wars. They are surrounded by danger and helpless. Without a proper system of information they are at the mercy of everyone. They never know what hits them or why.

I wasn’t enjoying watching Turtles Can Fly but I was glad I did. This movie is bleak, depressing and heartbreaking but at the same time, it’s very good. The young actors are astonishing, the message is eloquently anti-war.

Here’s the trailer

And the full movie

Carriage to Vienna – Kočár do Vídně (1966)

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A comment by Stillwell on my post War Romances: A Very Long List led me to the Czech movie Carriage  to Vienna  aka Coach to Vienna – Kočár do Vídně. While it’s not exactly what we would call a romance, it’s a love story and I will include it in the list once I get a chance to update things.

The movie can be watched on YouTube as a whole in Czech and while I was a bit startled by Stillwell’s comment that we don’t need the subtitles, after having watched it, I agree. All you need to know is what is written in the intro.

The movie, which is set towards the end of WWII, focusses on one long scene, the trip through a forest in direction of the Austrian border and Vienna. The back story, as mentioned before, is written as an intro. Krista’s husband has been killed by Germans as he was suspected to have stolen something. She buries him and when she’s finished two young soldiers who know nothing of what has happened come to the farm and force her to drive them through the forest. The two soldiers are Austrians, one of them is badly wounded.

Hans is a very lively young man and chats constantly with Krista although she doesn’t seem to understand a word of what he is saying. The way this is filmed, the forest seems endless and as it is winter or just before spring, the trees are naked. A very bleak scenery for sure and the focus is on the three people on this carriage. As Krista is never speaking, we have to deduce her hostility from her actions and her expressions.

There is an axe hidden under the carriage of which the soldiers know nothing. Krista tries to hide it and to get rid of the soldiers’ weapons. Whenever the carriage stops for one reason or the other, she throws away something; a knife, a pistol, a gun…

The drama culminates when she is found out by Hans and he chases her from he carriage into the woods.

Where is the love story in all this, you may wonder, but that’s something you have to find out for yourself.

Not a lot happens in this movie. The protagonists do not understand each other but it’s clear that Hans is a kind man who has been dragged into the war and is on the wrong side because of his nationality. Krista who is full of hatred at the beginning of the film, slowly learns that not all Germans are the same.

This movie wasn’t appreciated in Russia, maybe even forbidden. It’s obvious why. At the end, the Czech woman and the Austrian soldiers, try to flee from the Russians who show no mercy once they get them.

I found this a very captivating, sad and impressive movie and am glad for the recommendation.