This WWII drama bases its action around Operation Dragoon, a vital part of the 1944 D-Day Landings. It acts as a prequel to Canadian director Ryan Little’s Saints and Soldiers made ten years ago, which dealt with the Malmedy Massacre during the Battle of the Bulge.
Little’s first offering was an impressive master-class in creating entertaining, enjoyable war films on a budget of less than £1 million. It was moving and hard-hitting; far more so than the newest version, despite the latter’s higher budget.
After landing in France on 15 August 1944, three isolated paratroopers come across a group of French Resistance in desperate need. The three men decide to risk their own lives and help the captive partisans. And, as formula requires, the men could not be more different.
Rossi is the no-nonsense tough-guy from the inner city who skipped school but earns respect as a skilled soldier and boxer. More than just a mindless grunt, Rossi is a troubled individual who is badly affected by the violence he sees (portrayed through numerous flashbacks).
Curtis is the All-American hero, the quarter-back jock distracted from the action by longings for his equally All-American sweetheart back home. Again, regular flashbacks leave little to the imagination.
Finally, Jones, the devoutly religious father-figure, provides sporadic didactic rants about the moral do’s and don’t’s of warfare. Clashing with the bravado of the other two men, Jones’ input highlights for the viewer the religious themes of the film; the dual nature of humans and the justifications of the so-called ‘righteous war’. Of which, according to this film, there were many.
Little falls foul of a few war-film clichés: the slow-motion close-ups, the choral music, and the endless stream of flashbacks which detract from the complex nut this film is trying to crack. This is almost redeemed by the on-screen chemistry between the three main characters. Almost, but not quite.
The film is well-acted, and Little has once again managed to use a still comparatively small budget to full effect. The problem is that not only has this sort of film been done before, it has been done far better and on a far grander scale. Both Saving Private Ryan and the Thin Red Line dealt with the same themes as Saints and Soldiers 2, but did so in a more believable and tasteful way.
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