Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge ★★★

I was all ready with three-and-a-half stars, but then the film had to end with a bunch of plot threads unresolved for no reason. I mean, it was already two hours and 45 minutes; an additional five or ten couldn't have hurt. Mostly, though, this is a superior mid-century Hollywood superproduction. I realise that's not saying much, but I was pretty impressed by how its intense focus on military strategy gives it something of a buffer against pandering emotionalism. Though of course the obligatory human interest does show up and does weigh things down, Ken Annakin directs like he simply hasn't the time to get all mushy over these people, so the film marches briskly through it to get to the good stuff. I will grant the screenwriters some effective character material in the form of Robert Shaw's fanatical Nazi colonel; it's slightly out of place in a film that's otherwise psychologically incurious, but it points towards a version of it that's even better, and Shaw acts the hell out of it. Almost as good is Charles Bronson, whose combination of vehemence and workaday pragmatism is so well-considered it makes you mourn his subsequent career path.

PS. Jack Hildyard is one of the best outdoor cinematographers.

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