Brilliantly directed by Anthony Mann, MEN IN WAR was the veteran filmmaker's only modern war film and is also one of his best. Set during the Korean War, Mann's film paints a hellish portrait of the insanity of combat as seen through the eyes of the common foot soldier. Robert Ryan is
superb as Lt. Benson, the tough, grizzled commander with orders to march his weary patrol to Hill 465, where they will join their battalion and take the hill. Aldo Ray is Montana, a sergeant from another company whose job is to squire his shell-shocked colonel (Robert Keith) back to a field
hospital for treatment. His weapons carrier wrecked, Benson commandeers Montana's jeep--with the catatonic colonel strapped inside--to carry ammo and other equipment to help his stranded battalion. Montana is adamantly against this, as he is determined to get his colonel, the only fellow soldier
who matters to him, to the hospital. Benson's duty, however, is to his men and he will not let Montana stand in his way. The men make their way through hostile territory amidst several skirmishes, losing several of their number along the way, and eventually get to Benson's battalion, only to
discover that most of its members are dead and the North Koreans occupy the hill. Left with only a handful of men, Benson follows his orders and tries to retake the hill.
A truly unique war film, MEN IN WAR rejects many of the narrative and character stereotypes common in the genre (there are no easily identifiable "types" such as the green recruit or the bookworm here; nor are there any touching conversations about life after the war; nor propagandizing over the
war's just cause--it simply is). MEN IN WAR is just what its title implies: a gritty, harrowing, and totally deglamorized view of combat. As in his masterful westerns featuring Jimmy Stewart, Mann pits his heroes and villains against a massive, rugged, and unforgiving landscape. The enemy is
mostly unseen, leaving the soldiers to struggle against the alien and hostile surroundings. Using a variety of unusual (especially for the period) cinematic techniques, including extreme close-ups, off-screen sounds, and dislocating jump-cuts, Mann creates one of film's most memorable and
affecting visions of the hell of war, driving home the futility of it all.
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- Review: Brilliantly directed by Anthony Mann, MEN IN WAR was the veteran filmmaker's only modern war film and is also one of his best. Set during the Korean War, Mann's film paints a hellish portrait of the insanity of combat as seen through the eyes of the common… (more)