The Movieforums Top 100 War Movies Countdown

→ in

Two films I like quite a lot, but neither of them made my ballot.

Here's what I wrote on The Cranes Are Flying some time ago.

WARNING: spoilers below
While I'm not the biggest fan of classic romance films, I was definitely eager to watch this film for this thread as I've been meaning to get to it for a while. While I'm not sure I consider it to be a great film, I liked a lot about it and another viewing may get me to like it even more.

After finishing it, I was rather surprised as to how it was a fairly low-key romance. After Boris left for WWII, most of the film followed Veronika's attempts of coping with his absence and the fear of him being killed, while she was stuck in a loveless relationship with Mark. Due to this, the film maintained a steady atmosphere of despair, yet never felt like it was wallowing in this. A major thing which sets this film above most other classical romances I've seen is that it refuses to tie itself up into a neat bow in terms of its emotional register. Many tragedies befall Veronika and, though she isn't able to recover from all of them, the ending shows that, even if she can't be made whole again, she can still move on. I found the ending to be more layered and impactful than what I normally see in romance films.

The camerawork and editing were also really impressive. The how-did-they-shoot-that scene of Boris running up a set of stairs as the camera followed him was pretty great, a dreamlike sequence of Boris imagining a wedding between he and Veronika was nothing short of technically impressive, and the air raid shown from the perspective of Veronika's apartment ranks among the most claustrophobic things I've seen in film in a while. I also appreciated how some of the lighting used in the happier and playful moments of the film had a strong, dreamlike glare to it (as could be seen with the sunlight in the opening, for example). These scenes caused the film to be stylistically impressive and they make me more excited to watch Kalatozov's Letter Never Sent for this thread.

With all that being said, while there's a lot to love about this film, I'll need to watch it again to decide if I think it's great or just really good since I'm still mulling over a major directorial choice in it. Around the middle of the film, Boris is killed in the war while on a reconnaissance mission. While his death is certainly unexpected and among the most visually and technically impressive scenes in the film, I did wonder whether his death would've had a stronger impact had it been saved for later. As it stood, I felt that his death sacrificed some of the narrative tension I enjoyed over whether he'd survive. To be fair though, this was in service of setting up an even bleaker tone in the second half with Mark being more at the forefront. Since I'm not quite sure what to make of that scene and the effect it has on the film as of now though, I'll have to rewatch the film to decide whether I liked this choice or not.

Regardless of what direction the film goes in in the second half though, I quite enjoyed this film and I found that it mostly lived up to its reputation as a great film. Another viewing may get me to like it even more.

I don't have a review of The Great Escape, but I also enjoyed that one. The somewhat relaxed and light-hearted portrayal of the prisoners helped to make the occasional bursts of darkness and the comparably tenser final act hit hard, yet without ultimately betraying this tone in the process. Great balancing act there. I haven't thought much about it since for some reason, but I'm sure it would still hold up if I were to rewatch it.

Great Escape made my list, it accomplishes this bizarre feat of making a movie about escaping a POW camp light and breezy.

Cranes was my #20. I watched it for the second time in preparation for the list and it had to make it. The story is very good and engaging but cinematography makes it next level. Maybe would make my all time top ten from that standpoint. Really astounding.

Watched Great Escape sometime in the past few years. Has great moments but overall just fine for me.

Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I had The Cranes are Flying as my #18

My list so far:

3. Army of Shadows
4. Underground
5. Forbidden Games
8. Kanal
10. Rome, Open City
15. The Ascent
17. 1917
18. The Cranes are Flying
21. Mrs Miniver
23. The Killing Fields
24. Grand Illusion
25. Journey's End (one pointer)

I expect 7 more to make it.

The Great Escape is an awesome classic, it's on my old top 250 all genres list. Could've been on my ballot but knew it would make it without my help. The Cranes Are Flying is my #23. So now my guess is The Thin Red Line didn't make the list.

SEEN 63/82
BALLOT 15/25

RAN could be in that category, too. Obviously a masterpiece, maybe less obviously a "war movie", for MoFo voting purposes?

Is Kubrick going to have three titles in the top eighteen or is Kurosawa going to show?

We gonna find out soon enough!
My gut tells me that there is no way in the world Spartacus is this high, let alone that it beats Ran. After my General/Duck Soup debacle in the comedy list there is no way I go hard against your picks again though.

The Cranes are Flying is excellent, but didn't make my ballot. The Great Escape is good, but not great, in my opinion.

Seen: 59/82

The Cranes are Flying is a masterpiece. Urusevsky's cinematography, Kolatazov's direction. Simply a stunning piece of cinema that I would give my right arm to watch in a theatre. It was my number 4.
Cranes Are Flying was my #2.

I will always be partial to films that contain a sequence (or sometimes just an image) that lodges in my brain to the degree that at times I just find myself replaying it in my head. Cranes actually has two such sequences, one of which I think is one of the most breathtaking things I've seen in a movie.

Many thanks to SpelingError for nominating it in the Russian Hall of Fame where I first watched it.

The Cranes Are Flying & The Great Escape....Two really good movies that are vastly different in styles. Seen both and almost voted for both but had to cut them to fit other movies on my ballot (which won't be making the countdown).

Previously I wrote this about them:

The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

Tatyana Samoylova who played the lead was amazing and really stunning looking too. Even with that dirt on her face she's a classic beauty. When I was looking for photos for this write up I noticed she almost always had a distant, far away look in her eyes and her face was taunt like she was deeply focused and burying pain deep inside. You can see that in the above photo.

The opening scenes reminded of me of Fellini before he delved into surrealism. It was like every scene was imbibed with energy and the joy of life. Then in the second and third acts, the film is more claustrophobic, with tight camera shots on the actors stressed faces. That all worked well.

I loved the story too, young love: devoted, ethereal and all encompassing. Then comes the war and that innocents in shattered by the German onslaught. I like the way the film captured that dichotomy. There was one camera shot that really brought home what it must have been like for the Russian population to know the Nazis were close to marching into the heart of their city.

The Great Escape (1963)

A WWII film based on actual events and on the book written by one of the prisoners of war. This is a light movie, with a fun feel to it (most of the time) and that's OK. The first part of the film is drama with light comedy (at times), the second part of the film is action-suspense. I like it that we see how the prisoners coordinated and manage to build a very elaborate escape tunnel, actually three of them and they name them too.

I liked the star filled cast: Steve McQueen, Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson, James Garner all were great personalities in this film and added to the huge ensemble cast. I learned in the DVD extras that the exterior shots were filmed in Germany, so no wonder Germany looks like Germany and not California! That alone makes the film worth watching...The Stalag prisoner camp was built almost to duplication of the original, which was located in Poland. The sets look great and so does the movie itself as it was shot in wide screen Cinemascope.

Is there some reason I shouldn't know when the hints will be posted, at least approximately?
I never get too see them before the reveal. I know I won't get them but I would like to try.

There isn't one set time. They come when they come.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Haven't seen The Cranes Are Flying but I do want to. I thought of placing The Great Escape on my ballot but I wanted to give a few more a chance, even though I felt (and it's turning out that way) that they had little chance of making it. I knew TGE would make so I voted otherwise. Still great to see it up there, such a treat it is.

#4 1917 Forward! #31
#7 The Longest Day Hit the beach! #36
#8 Hacksaw Ridge On point #67
#10 The Hurt Locker Bombs away! #58
#12 Dunkirk Retreat! #47
#15 Patton "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"
#17 The Best Years of Our Lives I had a dream. I dreamt I was home. I've had that same dream hundreds of times before. This time, I wanted to find out if it's really true. Am I really home? #21
#18 The Dirty Dozen "Killin' generals could get to be a habit with me." #32
#21 Tora! Tora! Tora! In the vanguard #63
#23 The Deer Hunter "Stanley, see this? This is this. This ain't something else. This is this. From now on, you're on your own." #25
"Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley."