Tuesday, March 21, 2017


How does one depict an event that they themselves were a witness to? Sure, there's the occasional embellishment here and there but overall it's more or less a recollection of what they saw. And an often common setting for those stories involve war.

William Wellman's Battleground is such an example. Written by Robert Pirosh (who witnessed the Battle of the Bulge firsthand), it's a story about the weariness of war. (Having several of its actors having served in World War II and the actual 101st Airborne Division as extras certainly adds to it.) But how does it compare to other World War II-based works of the time?

In comparison to other war pictures both past and future, Battleground doesn't boast an all-star cast. (While some of the actors would go on to make names for themselves, the more famous of the cast was Van Johnson.) That's not to say such a detail is a fault of on the film's part. In fact, it could make the viewer feel sympathy for the whole infantry rather than just a small handful of recognizable faces.

There's a speech delivered towards the end of Battleground that still rings relevant nearly seventy years later. In an attempt to rally the weary troops, a chaplain gives a sermon condemning the actions of the enemy. ("We must never again let any force dedicated to a super-race...or a super-idea, or super-anything...become strong enough to impose itself upon a free world.") In light of recent events in the United States, they continue to repeat history because they've failed it. ("We must be smart enough and tough enough in the beginning...to put out the fire before it starts spreading.")

Battleground may have been released amid other similar works but it's Wellman's direction that makes it remembered all these years later. Many films depict how war is absolute hell; only a select few show how it affect those fighting it.

My Rating: ****1/2

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