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More and more PR material is busting out for Fury, David Ayer’s follow up to Sabotage and the generally better regarded End of Watch. Having stayed put in the good old US of A so far, Ayer now heads over to continental Europe and the Second World War as her continues to examine the masculine experience and issues of force, violence and identity. Police, Drug Enforcers and now Soldiers, they are all caught up in violence, danger and mayhem. How will they respond? Will they cope?

It gets us thinking, with Fury looking like being an impressive and immersive portrayal of warfare, how will it rank alongside previous portrayals of war on the big screen? Fury seems to be occupying the same sort of claustrophobic space as Crimson Tide, rather than the wide open spaces of Glory, Braveheart and The Return of the King, which is commendable and intriguing. But what are the benchmarks for the portrayal of war thus far? Here are six of the best for your consideration and debate.

All Quiet on the Western Front

1. All Quiet on the Western Front

Every war film that has attempted to portray war as it really is, rather than grotesquely distorted as some sort of heroic, patriotic jolly, owes a debt to All Quiet on the Western Front. Considering that the film is now over 80 years old and still has the power to impact audiences is testimony to how long a shadow it truly casts.

It is hard to imagine now, how unlikely a success an international film about the experiences of German soldiers in WWI would have been in 1930, with lingering memories of death, destruction and devastation barely a decade old, but succeed it did. All of the motifs we now expect from our war films are present and correct – ambiguity, futility, despair, chaos, death – written large across the faces of the young cast, thrown into a melee that they could neither comprehend nor escape. Sadly, little more than a decade later, a slew of patriotic films would be churned out to secure popular support for the war effort which would fly in the face of this much needed veracity, but then the rules always seem to be different when the war is being fought compared to when film makers have a chance to reflect some years later – just compare John Wayne’s pointless “The Green Berets” with something like Coming Home or The Deer Hunter a few years later.

War is Hell – Over the Top into certain death.

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