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World War II, in a British disciplinary camp located in the Libyan desert, prisoners are persecuted by Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), who made them climb again and again, under the heavy sun, an artificial hill built right in the middle of the camp. Harris (Ian Bannen) is a more human and compassionate guard, but the chief, R.S.M. Wilson (Harry Andrews), refuses to disown his subordinate Williams. One day, five new prisoners arrive. Each of them will deal in a different way with the authority and Williams' ferocity.Written by
In Sidney Lumet's autobiography "Making Movies", he recalled suffering through the horrendous heat of the location and asking Sir Sean Connery if he was urinating at all, to which Connery's reply was "Only in the morning". See more »
When Staff Sgt. Williams "introduces" the five prisoners to the hill, he refers to the "north face" but from the shadows, it's clear that it's really the south face. See more »
This was one of the most poinant lines of the film, neatly summarising the general mood and feeling of the characters.
A lot of people think that this is an anti-war film, which to some degree it is. More accurately, however, it could be labelled an anti-army film. Interestingly enough both views could be maintained without there being any real warfare displayed on the screen. This is a measure of how powerful the film is.
The fighting which we see is actually between the various prison officers and convicts. The film does not simply divide them into opposing groups, but rather explores the differences and tensions between the people who are in power and those who are subject to it.
Like 'Full Metal Jacket', many years later, this movie is a condemnation of the dehumanising process soldiers are forced to go through in order to survive the army. Military prison, as we learn, is a further step down into the merciless and brutal world of the army.
If 'The Hill' was made today, the violence we see would undoubtedly be more explicit and obvious. However, this does not take away anything from the original , as it is the mental torture more than the physical suffering which is portrayed so well in Lumet's work.
It has aged fairly well, mainly due to the accomplished and original way the film is shot and the script is written. Camera angles to induce feelings of dominance, claustrophobia and pressure are utilised perfectly as are the varying degrees of light and dark contrast which accentuates the blazing sun. Every actor is well cast and gives well judged performances, most career bests. Those that stand out are Bannen, Hendry, Connery and Andrews.
At the core of the film is the struggle between Andrews and Bannen's respective characters for ultimate authority in the prison. The bittersweet ending shows that Andrews' charcter, although shaken, will still reign in the hellhouse of a military prison.
Superb, thought provoking film, that rewards the viewer for staying with it as the powerful ending is reached.
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