Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.
Ryan is always saying things about his wisecracking, fun-loving men like, "They're just kids." And Wayne's first priority is to force them to become disciplined and efficient warriors. He's distant enough that when he sends the men a bottle of saki, he tells the messenger not to reveal the identity of the donor. Not that Ryan is a namby-pamby. He's shown as gentle but not coddling. And he's smart too. One of his men complains that every time he goes up, his chances of coming down alive are narrowed. Ryan explains Baldt's theorem, or whatever it is, which states that your chances remain the same no matter how many times you've flown. Just like flipping a coin. With each flip, your chance of getting heads or tails is even, no matter how many times you've flipped it. (This ignores something called The Law of Limits, I think, but I don't want to get in over my head here so I'll quit.) Okay, maybe Ryan thinks too much, but at least statistics isn't as bad as a taste for Shakespeare, which was John Agar's failing in "Sands of Iwo Jima." Math is a man's job, finally, whereas Shakespeare is only one step removed from fairyhood.
Anyway the conflict intensifies and Ryan finally turns on Wayne, saying, "I've had a belly full of you!" There is a fierce confrontation and Wayne departs to train pilots elsewhere in ground support using Corsairs, a legendary Pacific fighter. He does not recommend Ryan as his replacement because Ryan, as we all know, hasn't got the guts for command.
Now -- you've got the picture of the conflict. We have, on the one hand, the stern, distant, not unfeeling Wayne leader. And on the other hand we have the casual, humanitarian Ryan who identifies with his men too much. Okay. The conflict is resolved at the end of the picture and the two men agree to meet later and get drunk together. I ask you: in whose favor is this conflict resolved? No power on earth could drag the answer from me.
This movie was directed by Nicholas Ray, although you'd never know it. Comedy relief is provided by the scrounging line chief, J. C. Flippen, who refers to non-aviation types as "mud Marines" and is patronizingly tolerated by Wayne. All the combat footage is from official Navy film. You have seen every shot exactly one thousand, two hundred, and forty-two times before.
Those F4U Corsairs were marvelous airplanes with a top speed of about 450 miles an hour.
- Apr 30, 2004