218. Ran (1985)

Film 86 in C4 Top 100 War Films

An old king in feudal Japan decides to abdicate in favour of his eldest son. His third son tries to warn him that this will cause in-fighting and that his older siblings will betray the king – but he ignores the warning, instead choosing to disown the third son. However, it doesn’t take long for the son’s prophesy to come true, and he endeavours to protect his father whilst bitter war is declared.

Ran is incredibly stunning with incredible battle scenes – the colours of the banners and pennants of the armies make for an amazing spectacle of a film. But my favourite bits by far are the utterly hilarious false eyebrows which everyone seemed to wear, except for the poor princess who has no eyebrows at all.

A classic Kurosawa – epic and visually beautiful.

7/10

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217. Hell in the Pacific (1968)

Film 85 in C4 Top 100 War Films

An American pilot and a Japanese officer are both marooned on a remote Pacific island. The Japanese man has become fairly self-sufficient – collecting drinking water and setting fishing traps, but the American views him as an enemy and destroys all these before realising that they have to work together the survive.

The language barrier that the pair experience is also as the viewer sees everything – the film is nearly silent and the Japanese is not subtitled, which actually adds a level of interest.  Lee Marvin is excellent as the twitchy US officer who slowly begins to trust his new neighbour and the film is more that a little funny at times, as well as very poignant. A pleasant surprise.

7/10

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216. Regeneration (1997)

Film 84 in C4 Top 100 War Films

Shell-shocked officers from the Great War are sent to Craiglockhart Hospital to recuperate. Of these men, poet Wilfred Owen meets fellow writer Siegfried Sassoon, where the latter encourages Owen to write truthfully about the horrors he has experienced.

Meanwhile, Billy Prior has lost the power of speech due to a traumatic event on the battlefield. Psychiatrist Dr Rivers tries to help him,  but Prior is bitter about the war and is desperate to leave the hospital, and lying about his mental state, goes into the local town to drink and meet women.  However, he is aware that as soon as he is fit, he will be expected to return to fighting. Dr Rivers has his own fears about the war – realising that he is sending men back to their possible deaths.

Regeneration is thought-provoking and beautifully acted, providing an insight into the trauma of war and the effects on the mind. More like a play than a film, it treats the viewer intelligently, and is an interesting change from the usual representations of the First World War.

7/10

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215. Braveheart (1995)

Film 83 in C4 Top 100 War Films

When young William Wallace’s father and older brother are killed fighting the hated English, he is taken to live with his uncle, a nationalist. When he grows up, he returns to his old village, where he falls in love with Murron, his childheart sweetheart.

They marry in secret, but days later she is attacked and murdered by English soldiers. He finds and slaughters them all, then raises an army of local clans to force all the English forces to leave Scotland.

English king, Edward Longshanks, isn’t very keen on that idea, and knows he needs to lure Wallace in, to break his power with the clans. He uses his weakly son’s French wife to bargain, which leads to betrayal on both sides.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, though its historical accuracy is somewhat suspect. It’s overly long and rather silly at times. Not a bad film, but I do wonder what the Oscar judges were thinking when it won so many awards.

7/10

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214. Master and Commander (2003)

Film 82 in C4 Top 100 War Films

I wasn’t really looking forward to this much at all, as I’m not a huge Russell Crowe fan, and I’m not generally particularly keen on Hornblower-type films. However, it is actually rather exciting and swashbuckling. I might have to change my mind…

Crowe is Jack Aubrey, captain of the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic war. Whilst defending Britain’s shores from French invasion, they come under attack from an American-built French ship, the Acheron.

The Acheron is heavier and much faster than the Surprise, but Aubrey decides they must follow and intercept. They go as far as Cape Horn and round to the Galapagos islands, where the ship’s doctor is allowed some leave, but when they spot  their quarry, they realise they must disguise the Surprise and lure the French in closer.

The film is very thrilling, and you can almost smell the gunpowder and sawdust. It’s a little gruesome at times, with limbs being amputated and men dying in unsanitary conditions. But what lets the story down is the tacked on piece about the ship’s doctor making rare discoveries on the Galapagos a good few years before Darwin – it seemed very unlikely and a bit ridiculous and added nothing of value to the film.

6/10

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213. Went the Day Well? (1942)

Film 81 in C4 Top 100 War Films

Masquerading as British soldiers on a training exercise, pesky Nazis invade a genteel English village. Only an observant vicar’s daughter and a young lad notice anything astray at first, but when German chocolate is discovered, and odd-looking number sevens are found written on discarded envelopes, then things begin to look very suspicious.

Unfortunately, the local squire is a bad ‘un and in league with the infiltrators, who are planning a full-scale invasion of Britain. But when the telegram lady is murdered, and the young men in the Home Guard are accosted and shot, it’s up to the locals, including the canny land girls (a young Thora Hird) to save the village and ultimately the whole country.

Of course, it’s pure propaganda, using scare tactics to ensure that everyone keeps their eyes and ears open. But although the film isn’t bad, it’s not great either, with a similar plot to the much more entertaining The Eagle Has Landed. However, saying that, it’s a vast improvement on some of the other propaganda films of the time, which were often rather twee. Went the Day Well? is different in that it is dangerous, thrilling and cutthroat in the way it handles the possible invasion.

5//10

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212. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Film 80 in C4 Top 100 War Films

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on an odd and dangerous assignment to locate and kill a renegade Colonel Kurtz, a man who has set himself as some kind of god within the Cambodian jungle. Kurtz had previously been considered a model officer, and is presumed to have gone insane.

Willard joins a navy patrol with a small crew and encounter a Wagner and Napalm obsessed Lieutenant Colonel, Playboy bunnies and a drugged-out photographer, all en route to Kurtz’s hideout.

Based on Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, it’s a mesmerising film – quite disturbing, mystical and mad. One of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a while and one of the better Vietnam-based films.

8/10

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