Sunday, May 29, 2011

They Were Expendable

John Ford, 1945, bw (8.5*)
Memorial Day WAR-a-thon Film #12
(Robert Montgomery, co-dir, uncredited, who took over for Ford when he was injured in a fall)
This unglamorous story of average sailors doing their job at war is actually a touching and memorable war film. It's about the men in PT boats defending the Philippines. The film is written around the real life escape of General Douglas McArthur from Corregidor around the beginning of the Pacific War. Remaining historically accurate, the film documents the collapse of American-Filipino resistance in 1942.

John Wayne plays Rusty, a cynical officer unhappy being on PT boats, he wants a bigger, more important station, so in this film Wayne is not the big hero in a famous battle at all, making it more realistic than most of his roles, and quite a satisfying performance as a result. Robert Montgomery as the squadron commander is understated and moving, one of his best performances as well.

The film is full of memorable war images: a Japanese air strike at Subic Bay, the scenes of McArthur's escape, the defeated American army retreating on Mindanao. This is not a heavy action war film, but has a tranquil pace with time for other real life moments. Perhaps the finest of John Ford's war films.

Excellent supporting cast includes Ward Bond, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Leon Ames. The sound and special effects received Oscar® nominations.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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