I finally got around to watching The Longest Day last night. It had been sitting on my entertainment center for a few weeks, actually–but it’s 3 hours long, and what with the Olympics and all, I just hadn’t found the time to watch it. I’m a bit of a WWII buff, however, so it was only a matter of time before that movie was going in my PS3. For those of you who don’t know, it’s an all star historical flick focused on the events surrounding D-Day. (It was billed as having 42 stars in it, and it has quite the cornucopia. Everyone from John Wayne to Sean Connery.) The closest movie I can compare it to is A Bridge Too Far, although some might make the more immediate D-Day connection to Saving Private Ryan. The difference is that SPR is more focused on depicting war on an individual level. ABTF and TLD are focused on recreating the many facets of a battle. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, and I enjoy both.
Did I enjoy TLD?
Yes. Not quite as much as I wanted to, however. I liked it for its breadth. It showed all sides of the battle fairly well, not just the Allies. I especially liked the German side of it. Too often, Germans in WWII movies are depicted as faceless evil killer fanatics. The fact that their German is horrendous doesn’t help that much, either. In TLD, the Germans were played by real actual Germans, who spoke (gasp!) German, and were directed by another German. It was fun just listening to the dialogue and comparing it to the subtitles. (Most of the time, the two had only a vague resemblance to each other.) In addition to the Germans, I liked the macro-level scale of the war–how everything was recreated on a large level. At the same time, that’s also what I saw as the film’s weakness. It was so focused on throwing all sorts of characters (and stars) at the screen, that the individual level conflicts got lost. Characters were sometimes reduced to Character Ticks (The Gambler, The Stoic Guy, The Guy Who Likes His Dog), not actual rounded roles. Often, it was hard to remember who was doing what and why, and that’s never a situation you want to find yourself in when you’re watching a film.
That said, I still give it a good 3 stars. If you like war movies, you’ll like this one. Give it a gander, or tell me what you think about it if you’ve already seen it.