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Thursday, July 17, 2014


Admirable, if modest to a fault, WWII drama about a young British conscript prepping for the Normandy invasion. An art-house pic, but one that hits all those typical recruit’s rite-of-passage clich├ęs : Drills; Drinks; De-Virgination; Duty; Dawdling; Demerits; Diary; and Touching Letter Home. With his limited cast & budget, director Stuart Cooper expanded the film’s scope with innovative use of documentary footage from the remarkable war film collection of the Imperial War Museum. Not just the occasional battle shot, but routine military-service ‘actualities’ used as ‘dailies,’ incorporated into the fabric of nearly half the film. And while some shots inevitably jar from differing film stock & grain fluctuations in the source materials, cinematographer John Alcott (Stanley Kubrick’s go-to lenser at the time, his next shoot was BARRY LYNDON/’75) does wonders with period lenses to smooth out edits & transitions. What he can’t do (what no one seems able to do), is connect with the lost attitudes of the times, a tangible element that's only more apparent when juxtaposed next to the real stuff. Cooper, and co-scripter Christopher Hudson, also errs with too many visual premonitions from our soldier-boy, daydreams of destruction, loss and death-in-battle. By the time the real action shows up, it’s anti-climatic. Worthwhile taken on its own terms, with memorable ‘found’ footage like the bizarre beach-clearing gizmos, but this war memoir sees WWII thru WWI blinders.

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