A Major with an attitude problem and a history of getting things done is told to interview military prisoners with death sentences or long terms for a dangerous mission; To parachute behind enemy lines and cause havoc for the German Generals at a rest house on the eve of D-Day.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During World War II, Major Reisman is called to a high level meeting to discuss his next mission to train a group of soldiers and prepare them for a mission behind enemy lines. However the `soldiers' that Reisman has been assigned are all sentenced to death or life in prison for their crimes. The mission is a suicide mission on a French chateau where German top brass will be, the aim being to kill as many as possible. But before the mission, the group must pass a training to be considered for pardoning.
Well known by all men everywhere, this is less a serious war movie and more an enjoyable ensemble romp through a training camp, with the final third being the mission itself. This is the film's strength the training sections are very enjoyable and good fun to watch. The mission is punchy and dramatic and works very well as the conclusion to the film rather than the whole film itself (which other `mission' films have to do). The training is slick and enjoyable, not only it is occasionally quite funny but it is also consistently amusing and exciting at turns.
The film's main selling point (increasingly so) is the all star cast, all of whom do really good work. Marvin is tough in the lead and he is well supported by Borgnine, Kennedy, Ryan and Jaeckel playing the other officers. Of the prisoners Cassavetes steals the show with his cocky Franko although he is not short of famous support. Sutherland (although not well known at the time) is good comic relief, Savalas is a little too heavy for the film but adds menace, Bronson is good value, Brown is strong and is well known due to a weepy Billy Crystal! The rest of the dozen give good performances, but I'll be honest and say that the famous faces stuck in my mind more.
Overall this is not a wonderful film and, as a war movie it isn't the best `mission' movie you could find (simply cause the mission is quite short and straightforward. However it is a fun movie that never drags despite the slightly longer than normal running time for this type of movie. The training section and the mission itself combine to form an enjoyable film that is driven by a great cast playing good characters.
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