The true story of the Allied invasion of Normandy during
World War II, an event that would come to be known as D-Day.
The Longest Day (1962)
Directed by Andrew Marton, Ken Annakin, Bernhard Wicki
Written by Cornelius Ryan
Starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda,
Robert Ryan, Jeffrey Hunter, Curd Jürgens, Richard Todd,
Red Buttons, Richard Beymer, Sean Connery, Richard Burton
Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan
Oscar Wins - Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Art Direction,
Best Film Editing
The Longest Day is an epic film, not just in scale but in depth. It depicts the immense preparation that went into planning the invasion of Normandy, and how both sides handled the massive fallout of American forces joining the war in Europe. The cast is simply incredible, with some of Hollywood's biggest names at the time joining together to create an unforgettable ensemble of soldiers fighting for a noble cause. While the film does suffer slightly from its three-hour runtime, The Longest Day is still one of the most ambitious war movies ever made and a precursor to films like Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk.
My personal favorite standouts are John Wayne as Lt Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, in a strong, patriotic, leadership role that fits him like a glove, and Robert Mitchum as Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, a heroic commanding officer that's so unlike the slimy villains Mitchum was known for. What makes this film so neat though is that even the big names are woven into the tapestry of the film as small pieces of the larger whole. Nobody hogs the camera and (much like Dunkirk) the big names are equally important to the story as the newbies and the extras. It's just Allied soldiers battling the Germans, and you get to see the war from their side as well without them being portrayed as caricatures.
In The Longest Day, the Germans speak German, the French speak French, the Brits are played by Brits, and the Americans are played by Americans. It's a little touch but it makes all the difference, and it's something I've only seen once before in Inglourious Basterds. It shows a dedication to realism and a desire to immerse the audience in the narrative. Despite its intimidating runtime, I did enjoy the film.