Cut off by the Japanese advance into Burma, Captain Langford (Stanley Baker) and his exhausted British troops take over an enemy-held jungle village. Despite the protests of an elderly ... See full summary »
Cut off by the Japanese advance into Burma, Captain Langford (Stanley Baker) and his exhausted British troops take over an enemy-held jungle village. Despite the protests of an elderly padre (Guy Rolfe) and of war correspondent Max Anderson (Leo McKern), Langford orders Sergeant McKenzie (Gordon Jackson) to shoot two innocent villagers, thereby "persuading" a Japanese informer to surrender vital information. When the Japanese recapture the village, their commander uses Langford's own desperate war-born tactics in a similar effort to extract information from the British. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Yesterday's Enemy is a taut claustrophobic war film about a whittled down company of British soldiers caught behind the lines in Burma. It takes no sides other than to point out the absurd futility and dehumanization of individuals in war and the limited options they are faced with. It is a sober unromantic and highly provocative work that foreshadows the quagmire in Viet Nam and unapologetically addresses actions taken in the heat of battle far from the sideline moralizing out of harm's way.
Captain Langford leads his lost patrol with a firm hand cajoling and threatening members of the unit to remain disciplined and vigilant. When they stumble upon an austere Burmese jungle village they are surprised by a fierce Japanese resistance attempting to protect a senior officer. With the village under control Langford seeks answers through intimidation, torture and finally execution of innocent locals. Eventually they are overwhelmed by the Japanese who adopt the same methods to get answers about their missing general.
Despite it's sound stage jungle locale Yesterday's Enemy director Val Guest attains a very atmospheric feel of heat and pressure with the uncompromising downward thrust of the film as reality trumps morality. Stanley Baker's Langford and Gordon Jackson's Sgt. McKenzie remain stoically impressive throughout as they address the reality they are given while Guy Rolfe's Padre and Leo McKern's journalist Max ably bring balance and debate to the picture in arguing the other side.
Yesterday's Enemy (even the title points out the absurdity of war) unromantic and dark vision offers no solutions but raises dozens of questions about the ugliness of war without flinching remaining with you long after the firing has ceased. It is Britain's Steel Helmet.
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