Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich)

The 'Dozen', plus Lee Marvin's looming presence.

Film Review Archive (date seen: November 21, 2010)

An iconic and unforgettable war film, not because it has any sentimental message to send, but because of its sheer high-powered action, unforgettable characters, and a charismatic Lee Marvin as the tough Major Reisman. One can easily see its untainted influence across the years prior to its release, from modern 'ensemble' war films tackling different conflicts, to a masterful Tarantino homage in the form of "Inglourious Basterds".

Before watching the film, I've read the plot summary and saw derogatory adjectives such as 'losers' and 'lunkheads' on one side, with some atrocious descriptions like 'rapists' and 'murderers' on the other. I wondered, "how did Robert Aldrich pulled it off and squeezed out some form of heroism from these unlikable characters?" Then, while I watch the film, it occurred to me like a revelation, that all the negativity are all just paper-bound. Halfway through the film, the supposed 'death and hard labor-sentenced' criminals became even more likable than the actual military officers. Donald Sutherland is excellent in his precursor performance to his immortal Hawkeye in "MASH", Telly Savalas is great as Maggot, and Charles Bronson, arguably the king of cool next to Clint Eastwood, is, well, 'cool' as the German-speaking Wladislaw.

The developments, trainings, and comic reliefs proved to be very effective as a build-up to the literally shattering climax, with the team-affirming 'war game' as the film's best sequence. Though "The Dirty Dozen" is an action film urging audiences to cheer with the Major Reisman-led team, the final attack at the chateau, with the Germans trapped in the bomb shelter, proved to be an adequate slip-in commentary regarding the horrors of war.


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