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When Trumpets Fade (1998)
A note on criticisms
Surprised to find criticism here. This is a film for grown ups. Its about infantrymen, you know, the bulk of the troops in contact with the enemy. Watching other films you might be tempted to think that only Paratroopers and Rangers did any fighting, being made up of highly motivated men with a higher purpose on heroic missions. I note criticism that the cynical nonconformist type should not appear until Vietnam films. I would suggest that a very high proportion of those in combat in WWII also didn't want to be there - my father landed on Sword beach on D-Day and certainly would rather have been somewhere else. We can still respect their sacrifice even though they only wanted to survive, because we are grown up. We don't need a film packed full of sentimentality, directors manipulation and musical cues telling us what emotions to feel... and as to complaining about the plot, how do you defend the absolutely contrived plot of that other film I haven't named (but you can guess which one I mean). See this film. Rant over.
Cross of Iron (1977)
A Military Favourite
I can't add much to these reviews except to comment that I've found this film to be a great favourite among real soldiers. I once got to deliver the classic line to a Major and a Captain about hating all officers. Luckily(?) they knew I was quoting from the film!
I'm not bothered about the assortment of accents in the cast (that others have mentioned). It seems to me that if you believe in their situation and have immersed yourself in the film, as it was easy for me to do, then you don't even notice them after a while. I would argue that the cast (in terms of dialogue) in Private Ryan is far more of a problem, since these seem to be 1990s guys transported back to 1944 and are far too 'knowing'. Moreover, in Private Ryan I kept stepping back from the film feeling that I was simply being manipulated by the director. COI is far more chilling. I really liked (if that's the word) a scene where an artillery explosion killed both Germans and Soviets. Kind of emphasises the 'war is hell' message without preaching or being manipulative.
I think Steiner is one of the greatest military characters ever to appear on film (for what its worth, Gregory Peck as Savage in Twelve O'Clock High, and Jeff Daniels as Chamberlain in Gettysburg are also up there). I must say I didn't really like the ending, but I can't suggest a better one, but as an alternate "ending" I would certainly recommend that people *do not* see the awful sequel 'Sergeant Steiner' with Richard Burton(!) as Steiner.
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Savage or not so Savage?
Excellent comments here of substance over style etc. I agree with almost all of them so will not repeat, other than to agree that this is one of the best war films ever - with hardly any action content!
I would just speculate that Gen Savage may not be the strict disciplinarian he appears to be. He is just using his experience to play the role required for the job. I may have remembered this incorrectly, but when he is first being driven over to take command of the 'unlucky' group, doesn't the car stop, and you see him get out of the *front* (ie, next to the driver), throw away his cigarette, then get in the back. Is this perhaps symbolic of his adoption of a role?