Friday, September 23, 2005

They Were Expendable


Dir: John Ford (See this blog)

Warm slice of war WWII propaganda, served with all the trimmings. We at
"I Just Saw" have been feeling the John Ford love lately, and the man certainly brings the expert knowledge for this film. He served in the Navy, and was ordered to make this film (so says Robert Osborn). The battle scenes certainly seem authentic, and a deep empathy for the solidier is palpable in the film. It tells the story of PT boats in the early part of the war.

Ok, so the genre limits the movie. Bob Montgomery and John Wayne are gonna' get dem Japs, no matter what. Donna Reed comes off like a woman from . . .well, the Donna Reed Show . . . a convenient object for our hero to sacrifice his love for in deference to country. Hero worhsip all around.

But it's 1945. And it's a war film. So we forgive that stuff. Wayne's genius (yes I said it) is on display again; America's most casual and natural actor, ever. This is pretty dark for the time. Ford dwells on the casualites and the hopelessness of war more so than other films, and the ending is not a triumphant victory but the promise of further success at the nadir of American strength during the war.

Ford has limited range to explore artistically since the plot is pretty formulaic. But the lighting during an early hospital dance, case entirely in shadows, does stand out as a welcome touch.

The movie is fine, nothing more. I think it is overrated. Nothing wrong with it, but it's still stuck within its own self-imposed limits.