Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Young Lions

Edward Dmytryk's The Young Lions depicts the lives of three men during World War II, a character study if you will. A very intriguing one as well.

The first of the three men is Christian Diestl (Marlon Brando), a member of the Nazi Party. At first, he has no complaints with the invasions and bombings he hears about. Once he sees firsthand the carnage and devastation his country was responsible for, he starts having serious personal conflicts. A role like this could have been schmaltzed up if not careful, but Brando makes it work. Not on a grand scale, but it's passable.

The second man is Noah Ackerman, played by Montgomery Clift. Noah is a feeble person, one who keeps very much to himself. That trait is practically scorned upon when he's sent away to serve in the army, and he becomes a frequent target of the other soldiers' tormenting. Much like the role of Christian, the role of Noah could have been an overly sympathetic role if written and/or performed poorly. Knowing Clift, he makes it work wonderfully.

The third of the trio is Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin), a stage performer with an indifferent view on life. He's less than thrilled about being drafted, even more so at the thought of not living to see the end of the war. Yet he manages to form a sort of kinship with Noah, who is the complete opposite of Michael. He becomes a reliable person to Noah, a confidant if you will. Michael's hard edge begins to soften as the war wears on. Martin, impressive with his work in Rio Bravo the following year, is just as impressive here.

The Young Lions has its flaws (like that 167-minute running time), but it's a very good film. Brando, Clift and Martin give strong, fine performances in a film that's worthy of a look.

My Rating: ****1/2

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