The film is preceded by a montage credit sequence depicting events which contributed to the fall of Nazi Germany, reiterating the futility of the soldiers’ efforts, but Peckinpah shows compassion for the source material and kudos must go to him for portraying the war without glamorising it. However, despite some visually outstanding battle scenes, the film is robbed of emotional potential by the sheer theatricality of it all. The German soldiers’ accents, ranging from British to Slavic, are unconvincing enough to be distracting, and a scene where one soldier’s homosexuality is exposed is so overacted that it could be inferred that the entire battalion had tendencies.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
Based on Willi Heinrich’s chilling novel The Willing Flesh, Sam Peckinpah’s World War II epic opens as a Wehrmacht platoon takes charge of a bewildered child soldier on the Russian Front. The group’s new commander, the ruthless Captain Stransky, orders for the boy to be shot without question, and continues to upset the balance in the group as he reveals he is only interested in earning himself the Iron Cross. Stransky takes liberties with his authority, often jeopardising the other soldiers’ lives, but soon meets a challenge with the embittered Sergeant Steiner, whom he had effectively usurped. Steiner puts Stransky in a vulnerable position by refusing to take instruction and, more importantly, threatening to expose his lies about leading the counter-offensive which would win him the coveted Iron Cross. Soon the conflict is reduced to the two men, their original roles all but forgotten.