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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 Under the impression that the battle has been won, battalion headquarters orders some of the men withdrawn when in fact they are in dire need of reinforcements and supplies.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
Fine antiwar drama from one of the genre's greatest directors.
One of the finest (anti)war movies ever made is undoubtedly the 1930 epic All Quiet On The Western Front, directed by the incomparable Lewis Milestone. 29 years later, Milestone once again turned his attention to the waste and futility of war with Pork Chop Hill. This powerful and well-made Korean War drama is not quite in the same league as Milestone's earlier classic, but it still paints a vivid picture of the harsh realities of combat, and conveys a palpable sense of the pointlessness of war.
Lieutenant Clemons (Gregory Peck) is a honest, dependable American soldier fighting in the Korean War. He believes in carrying out orders whatever they may be, but his attitude is put to the ultimate test when he is instructed to lead an attack on a tactically insignificant hill in the dying days of the war. Issuing orders which he knows will lead to pointless loss of life, Clemons leads his men up the titular hill into a maelstrom of enemy gunfire, looking on in horror and dismay as his boys are gunned down or blown to bits in their futile quest.
After the film had been shot, Milestone was somewhat irritated to discover that the studio had tampered with his intentions, adding a misleading last-scene voice-over which tried to suggest that the victory on Pork Chop Hill made a significant difference to the future of millions of Koreans. The film is at its best when delivering its anti-war sensibilities, especially the bitter scenes showing honest young soldiers losing their lives for no particular reason. In historical terms, the capture of Pork Chop Hill was both costly in lives and irrelevant in consequence. The performances are generally first-rate. Peck is excellent as the man who tries to justify the insanity of what his platoon have been ordered to do. He gives his best performance since Twelve O'Clock High a decade earlier. Giving memorable supporting turns are familiar character actors like Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard and Martin Landau, all of them resisting the urge to appear as gung-ho heroes to add to the film's stance that war is a meaningless and expensive pursuit. There have been few genuinely worthy Korean War films but this one and M*A*S*H - released 11 years later - are recommended titles for anyone looking for authentic film treatments about the subject.
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