The true story of the 101st Airborne Division who became trapped
in the city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
Directed by William A. Wellman
Written by Robert Pirosh
Starring Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban,
James Whitmore, George Murphy, Marshall Thompson,
Jerome Courtland, Don Taylor, Bruce Cowling, Douglas Fowley
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(James Whitmore), Best Director, Best Film Editing
A good war movie can be so meaningful, especially when it's a retelling of true events. But when that retelling gets lost in a dull narrative that fails to capture the harrowing events of the 101st Airborne, you end up with a film that has not earned its mantle of "classic." I found Battleground to be boring, hard to watch, and extremely forgettable. Some of the dialogue is sharp and witty, but it's trapped in the shadow of what feels like a two-hour long gimmick. The film makes a big deal out of the fact that they hired a number of actual veterans, many of whom were in the 101st Airborne Division on which the film is based. If only they'd put that amount of effort into the film itself.
We follow a platoon of soldiers as they march into Bastogne, Belgium to confront the Germans. They instead wind up trapped in the city, and the Germans are on the verge of annihilating them with artillery. The bulk of the movie is just watching the soldiers lay around and try to cope with their situation. Despite the film's title, there's very little actual battle. No performances really stand out either, even James Whitmore, who earned an Oscar nomination for his. I can't really fathom how this film won screenplay either. Cinematography I get, but screenplay?
I can't help but think that this film's success came largely from post-war patriotism following the Allied victory of World War II. It was only four years after the war, so it's not crazy to think Americans were brimming with so much patriotism, they failed to notice the film's glaring faults. Or maybe I'm alone here, and the film just didn't speak to me. I guess we'll never know.