Cross of Iron (1977)
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Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron, a WWII film starring James Coburn featuring the German side of things. Mostly devoid of politics, it's really about the soldier's reality in any war, and indeed, feels a lot more informed by Vietnam than it does the Russian front (and yet, the details are authentic). I enjoyed it, though it was very bleak.
I believe God is a sadist, but probably doesn't even know it.
This is absolutely lurid, bleak, cynical and perfect war film. Peckinpah doesn't bother with tales of courage or sugar-coated events. Instead, he shows what eastern front was all about; a total meat grinder, with no good guys. Just wicked men killing each other for reasons untold.
Stransky, played by the great Maximillian Schell is one of the high points of the film. One of my all-time favorite characters. We hear some great dialogue, courtesy of him and the protagonist, Steiner. Their class warfare that Peckinpah managed to snuck into the film brings some extra flavor to the already maddening setting. The characters in general are fantastic. Everyone is given some degree of back story and most of the character arcs culminate in one hell of a scene. Magic word here is demarcation.
The battle scenes. Absolutely stunning. They are chaotic and pretty much how I envisioned eastern front. The chaos is amplified by Peckinpah's trademark style and slow-mo's. And I absolutely adore the fact that they used authentic equipment.
We see authentic weaponry, like PPSH's and MP-40's, and two real T34/85's which brought a wicked grin to my face. Only weapon that wasn't authentic was the supposed MG-42. The rate of fire was quite revealing. But I don't want to compalin after I saw that beauty take dozens of russian animals into the abyss.
And no 'review' of Cross of Iron can't be written without mentioning the ending. It is not what Peckinpah originally wanted, but it is fucking brilliant. Brilliant.
Cross of Iron is really on par with Garcia and TWB as Peckinpah's finest. And not only that, it rivals even the best of war films and in my opinion, it is one of the finest. But the reasons why it will never be in as high regard as say, a shitfest like Private Ryan are simple:
the movie is from Germans' POV, it has no heroes and yeah, Peckinpah will always be a controversial film-maker to some people.
"What will we do when we have lost the war?"
- Prepare for the next one.
Good war movie but not anywhere near Peckinpah's best.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #58 in 101 War Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #436 in 501 Must See Movies