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Recruits head to the front lines towards the close of the Korean War. The interaction between two of the soldiers...an idealistic newcomer and a psychotic who goes on one-man patrols slitting enemy throats under cover of night...and the orphan boy who comes between them is examined. The Cease-Fire brings the three to a final resolution. Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
Pvt. Roy Loomis:
Once you get out of training, you're funneled into what's called the pipeline, and you become a number while you're traveling in it, until you get spewed out somewhere at the other end. After you land, you look for signs of war. A bullet scar in a wall, a bombed out building. You don't have to look very hard. You see a lot of poverty, kids starving. When you get out of the trucks after the ship and the train, you know the pipeline is carrying you further toward the front. You're ...
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This has got to be one of the least expensive movies ever made outside the Roger Corman organization, shot on a bare lot in a few weeks. Redford (not yet a heart throb) plays Loomis, newly assigned to an infantry company under the command of a curiously unassertive captain who shows an especially protective attitude toward John Saxon's enlisted man. No homosexuality is implied on the part of the captain. He seems more fearful of Saxon than attracted to him, and he depends on the information Saxon brings back from his nightly solo patrols behind the Chinese lines. The reason for the diffidence shown Saxon by the captain, and by all other members of the company, becomes clear when we see him in action at night, his face painted a ghastly black, slitting throats and doing a little war dance around the bodies. Killing is what Saxon does. It's practically ALL he does. He sleeps while the other grunts work, and whistles loudly and heedlessly while others sleep and he cleans his weapons. Except when murdering or teaching his young Korean orphan friend how to play the game, he maintains a vacant expression, doesn't remember to call officers "Sir," and is convinced with absolute certainty that he's doing what he does flawlessly. While being debriefed after a night patrol in which he discovered a heretofor unknown Chinese listening post ("One of them was asleep," he comments smoothly) the captain asks him if, you know, well, this is kinda important and, does he think he maybe should go back and make sure his information is accurate. And Saxon looks up from his coffee blankly and asks, "What for?" Saxon is quite good, actually. Redford hadn't yet got control of his minimalist style. The two of them represent sets of entirely different values: Saxon, who is driven by the same demons that move any ordinary serial killer; and Redford, whose convictions are bourgeoise. The focus of their conflict is the Korean orphan. Redford wants to put him into an orphanage where they will at least feed and clothe him and teach him how to play baseball instead of how to murder people. He tells Saxon this and threatens to take the matter to higher authority, generating from Saxon a withering stare filled with hellish and unfathomable emotions because, aside from serial killing, the Korean boy is the only meaningful thing in Saxon's life. It ends as you'd expect. Saxon would never have made it in civvy street anway. This is the trouble not only with efficient and committed killers like Saxon (and like Steve McQueen in "Hell is for Heroes," as another commentor pointed out) but with many military heroes, alas. So many of them seem prompted to extraordinary things without being too clear about whether their circumstances are extraordinary or otherwise. Francis Ford Coppola was a driver on one of the army trucks in this movie.
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