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Grim story of one of the major battles of the Korean War. While negotiators are at work in Panmunjom trying to bring the conflict to a negotiated end, Lt. Joe Clemons is ordered to launch an attack and retake Pork Cop Hill. It's tough on the soldiers who know that the negotiations are under way and no one wants to die when they think it will all soon be over. The hill is of no particular strategic military value but all part of showing resolve during the negotiations. Under the impression that the battle has been won, battalion headquarters orders some of the men withdrawn when in fact they are in dire need of reinforcements and supplies. As the Chinese prepare to counterattack and broadcast propaganda over loudspeakers, the men prepare for what may be their last battle. Written by
On the very short list of Korean War films, `Pork Chop Hill' has many admirable features. Lewis Milestone's direction is never sluggish, yet allows for introspective moments. His orchestration of combat scenes is effective, while not memorably exciting. There is much beauty in the cinematography, and several shots have a spare, otherwordly feeling that underscores the plight of the GIs in this true story. The musical score, by the underrated Leonard Rosenman, contributes to the mainly grim tone of the circumstances.
Actors are all at, or near, their best: Peck, Edwards, Strode, Guardino, Shibata, a very young Robert Blake.. Closeups are rare, and group scenes so full of motion, that it is easy to miss many well-known names in supporting roles: Harry Dean Stanton, Charles Aidman, Paul Comi, Kevin Hagen. While some characters besides Peck's lieutenant are singled out-Woody Strode's Franklin, in particular-most are only given very brief scenes to establish their individuality.
With all its fine qualities, `Pork Chop Hill' somehow misses greatness. The build toward the climax lacks the thrust it should have in a film of modest length and dimensions. And when the climax arrives, it does not have the impact that was surely intended. Nevertheless, this film honorably commemorates a singular operation in `the forgotten war' and the men who died carrying it out.
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