Tag Archives: War

Sink the Bismarck

Kenneth More, Dana Wynter and Carl Mohner star in this 1960 drama about the heroic efforts of the British Royal Intelligence to stop the Bismarck, a German battleship launched in 1941 to cut off supplies to Great Britain and invade the country. Director Lewis Gilbert combines actual war footage and a roller-coaster plot to deliver an unforgettable document of world history.

Rating: 8 our of 10

Ever since I was a young film student I have always been intrigued by the poster to Lewis Gilbert’s 1960 “Sink the Bismarck” with it’s very cool, dramatic and colorful battleship on fire with the warplane hovering just above it in battle formation. Upon finally seeing Gilbert’s film (after seeing his numerous Bond films first, though)  I was more than intrigued. I became enthralled. With docudrama and with history, “Sink the Bismarck” is a docudrama of the highest order. It is to this day meant to be taken very seriously and even though at times it may take some dramatic license and have some inaccuracies, it never takes the audience’s love and respect for history for granted. This is one historic film that is close to being as near perfect to depicting the reality of a true situation on film as “A Night to Remember,” a film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It is a strange co-incidence that Kenneth More who starred in that film headlines this one. He serves this film just as well, portraying the fictional Captain Jonathan Shepard.

The hunt is on for Nazi Germany’s most powerful, intimidating and dangerous battleship, the Bismarck. Shepard is assigned to co-ordinate the hunt for the Bismarck in order for the British to maintain some control over the Atlantic. The Bismarck has proven to be a formidable and elusive foe. She was very big and even by today’s standards was a titan of a battleship. Lewis Gilbert cast Carl Mohner as Captain Lindemann, who, as the commander of the Bismarck, stoically plays cat and mouse with the British naval fleet. Dana Wynter who starred in the original Don Seigel version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” portrays 2nd Officer Anne Davis. She assists Shepard with the hunt to find and destroy Bismarck. Shepard relies heavily on her and Gilbert relies heavily on them for sub-plot.

Sink the Bismarck is a great War docudrama that does not move with MTV-style pacing and does not have loud, intrusive speaker shattering explosions. It is very methodical, smart, and sometimes has a bit of a ‘stiff upper lip’ type feel. It is a great watch for history enthusiasts and Lewis Gilbert expertly directs his actors with intense fortitude in just the right places. There is also a bit of well imposed sympathy for both sides of the war here as well. He also weaves real time battle footage with his film. The film is well staged and suspenseful. Highly recommended.


Oscar winner Oliver Stone directs an all-star cast in this satiric retrospective of the life and political career of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin), from his troubles as a young adult through his governorship of Texas and all the way to the Oval Office. Richard Dreyfuss plays Vice President Dick Cheney, with Elizabeth Banks as First Lady Laura Bush and Thandie Newton as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Directed by Oliver Stone (World Trade Center, Any Given Sunday).

Rating: 4 out of 10

Oliver Stone is one of the most overrated directors in Hollywood. I lobbied my brother to put him on our list, but he didn’t make the cut.

“W.” came out too soon, much like the flop “World Trade Center.” Bush was still in office when this hit theaters, and no one cared then or now. Stone can’t get a budget, but actors like Brolin and Al Pacino still come out and work for him. “W.” lacked focus and realism. Stone didn’t want to totally nail Bush against the wall, which is easily done and justifiable. Instead, he wanted to show that Bush is human, and like the rest of us, makes mistakes. Stone portrayed Bush with great naivete, taking the stance that he actually was duped into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction by bigger powers like Dick Cheney — played to perfection by Richard Dreyfuss, a lone golden nugget in this below average film.He also took the stance that Bush wanted to get revenge for his daddy and his cabinet wanted to finish the job he never did.

Personally, I found this to be a cartoonish apology by Stone on Bush’s behalf, taking the position that he didn’t know better, so it made everything OK. There was also the portrayal of Colin Powell by Jeffrey Wright as the voice of reason, the veteran with a conscious who tries to talk the cabinet out of going to war because of the lack of proof. Powell later admitted to fabricating the weapons of mass destruction speech he gave to the United Nations. I have a hard time believing he was the voice of reason.

In the end, the story is not very strong — it jumps from his youth to presidency numerous times and develops neither. With a watered down story and weak direction, “W.” is a clunker.

The Messenger

While on a recent deployment to Iraq, US Army Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is injured when an improvised explosive device goes off within close proximity to him. He is back in the States recovering from the more serious of those injuries, including one to his eye and leg. He has resumed a sexual relationship with his long time girlfriend Kelly (Jena Malone), despite the fact that she is now engaged to another man. With the few months Will has left in his enlistment, the army assigns him to the Casualty Notification Team in his area. Not having a background in counseling, psychology or grief management, he is unsure if he is well suited to this job. He is partnered with a career soldier, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who teaches Will the precise protocol involved in the job. As Will learns to adapt to the range of emotions of the next of kin, he is unprepared for the reaction of Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), whose husband was killed in Iraq. His initial encounter with Olivia leads to him wanting to get to know her better, which may not be in either her or his best interest. Despite being a recovering alcoholic, the more experienced Tony tries to guide Will as best he can under their collective circumstances. The film is made by first-time director Oren Moverman, who also co-wrote.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is full of writing and characters, emotional scenes, cinematography and settings that make us think while not answering questions or taking sides. This is no easy task for any director, but Moverman helped create a beautiful script that is thoughtful, and a style of direction that flows with ease, but challenges the viewer.

Harrelson and Foster deliver two of the best performances of 2009, the former getting a worthy Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Tony and Will are full of contradiction and their character development is smart. Will keeps people at bay, including his ex-girlfriend who he still sleeps with, despite her being engaged. He doesn’t own a computer, so he can’t e-mail or instant message. He turns his phone off and listens to loud heavy metal when he’s alone in his largely empty home. Tony is a recovering alcoholic who hangs out in bars and drinks water with lemon, can’t keep a relationship, is competely insensitive but has to be for his job.

There are many dramatic and emotional scenes throughout the movie as the two visit the dead soldiers’ family member homes. There’s a great role played by Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs) as a grieving father. Will is torn, trying not to be too sensitive while Tony is icy in his calm delivery of the bad news. This is the military’s toughest job, and this current events picture is honest about that without being preachy, taking sides, or being unfair to the veterans who selflessly serve our country every day. This is one of the best films of last year, and I look forward to seeing more films by Moverman.