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Acting Under Orders

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I've chosen 5 movies to look at this week that examine the sometimes disastrous, even murderous orders given in war. Whether done for the right reason and things just go terribly wrong, or done for the wrong reasons, like blind ambition, these films tell the stories of the men who pay the ultimate price for acting or failing to act under orders. These movies have an impressive 40 plus nominations from the Oscars, BAFTAS, Golden Globes, and Cannes Film Festival---and many wins.

Glory 1981

Matthew Broderick heads an all star cast including Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher and Denzel Washington (in an Academy Award winning performance for best supporting actor). Colonel Robert Shaw (Broderick) commands the first all black volunteer company to fight in the civil war. Not just up against the prejudices of the south, they must also overcome difficulties amongst themselves and the men in charge of training and leading them. I watch this movie regularly--- excellent story, solid performances, wonderful cinematography and a haunting sound track.

Das boot 1989

This Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film tells the story of a U boat crew in 1942. The filming is so close and tight you almost experience claustrophobia. The result is a tense, mesmerizing portrayal of what it must have been like in these submerged death traps. The tag line for the movie was "Hitler sent out 40,000 men aboard German U-Boats during World War 2. Less than 10,000 returned." This movie has sub-titles.

Gallipoli 1981

Starring a very young Mel Gibson early in his career. Two young Aussies join the ANZAC forces in WW 1 and are eventually sent to fight the Turkish army at Gallipoli. What ensues is one of the bloodiest battles of WW 1- with losses (Australian, New Zealand, British, French and Turkish) estimated to be anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000-- just to secure a beach head of a few kilometers. One of my fellow bloggers finds this movie 'ham-fisted' but I have seen it more than once and find it worth the two hours.

Paths of Glory 1957

Stanley Kubrick directs Kirk Douglas in this gripping WW 1 story about a French unit commander (Douglas), an egotistical, self righteous general and the enlisted men who must suffer the consequences of their failure to follow orders.

Breaker Morant 1980

This Australian film tells the story of 3 Aussie lieutenants on trial by a British Military Court. They are charged with shooting prisoners during the Boer War (1901) in the Transvaal Republic. At court they attempt to prove that they had not done so willingly but rather had been ordered to do so by their superiors.

Answers to the post from February 21st. Scroll down to see the questions, and another twenty from an earlier post.

  1. Jaws
  2. Field of Dreams
  3. Streetcar Named Desire
  4. Apollo 13
  5. Annie Hall
  6. Psycho
  7. Godfather
  8. Dracula
  9. Almost every James Bond
  10. Star Trek-Wrath of Khan
  11. Dead Poets Society
  12. Rocky
  13. Citizen Kane
  14. Marathon Man
  15. On the Waterfront
  16. Godfather
  17. Wall Street
  18. When Harry Met Sally
  19. Grand Hotel
  20. Sunset Boulevard


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