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4.2 out of 5 stars57
4.2 out of 5 stars
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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2004
Releasing a war film at the same time as Saving Private Ryan probably isn't the smartest thing to do, and it is a great pity that this film was so ignored. A made-for-TV flick, it plays more like an arthouse production than it's War-is-hell counterparts.
It is set during the battle of Hurtgen Forest, a particularly bloody battle in American history. Focusing on lowly Private D. Manning, the film begins as he carries the only other man from his platoon that wasn't massacred through the misty woods. Nobody except him knows what befell the unit, and frankly nobody cares, as he is immediately, against his will, promoted to Sergeant and sent back in to the "Death Factory" with a batch of fresh recruits. For him, history seems to be repeating itself, certain that these youngsters are soon to die as well.
If Private Ryan's style of shooting evoked combat footage, this musters something of the feeling of war photography, framing the story neatly and functionally, and often fading into sepia tones like O Brother, Where Art Thou? Directed by John Irvine it bears resemblances to Hamburger Hill but certainly stands on its own two feet.
The strength of the film over others is the central character's ambiguity. Is he a reluctant fighter, some sort of lucky freak, or just a plain heartless coward? It is certain, however, that this man is no hero.
The cast is completed made up of unknowns, none of which have really got anywhere since which is unfortunate as the acting is largely strong. Where the film fails, inevitably, compared to Ryans' big-budget spectacle, is its action, shot more traditionally. But don't miss it- this is a benchmark for how TV should be made
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 October 2012
This very little known film took me completely by surprise and it was a very pleasant surprise indeed. Now, don't get me wrong, this film is quite nightmarish and extremely violent and I do not think there is even one single "pleasant" moment in it - but on another hand this is a rarity in recent cinema, a war film with a solid scenario, credible characters, well filmed action scenes, quite a lot of developments we can not anticipate and a really surprising, very strong ending...

Director John Irvin made earlier (in 1987) another excellent (and also little known) war film, "Hamburger Hill". In this one he did almost as well. As for "Hamburger Hill" he selected actors who are not really known (well, at least I didn't know them) and he worked them very hard indeed - in the film we can almost REALLY see the terminal exhaustion slowly breaking people who just reached the very limit of their strength... As in "Hamburger Hill", the cast is exclusively male, the language is strong and the occasional jokes fly at the lowest possible level... However the butcher bill in this film is much, much heavier than in "Hamburger Hill" as here, the enemy has not only light weapons but also artillery and tanks.

Most of this movie was turned in a natural park in Hungary and the forest is indeed a very savage place, with enough fog and undergrowth to hide entire squads waiting in ambush, and enough steep hills and muddy banked rivers to stop in its tracks any amount of armor - which is exactly what happened in 1944-45 in the Hurtgen Forest and what made this battle so bloody for both sides. With only a handful of tanks managing to slip here or there and the positions of both sides being so close (sometimes only 25 metres separated Americans from Germans!) that air support was ruled out, the battle had to be waged as in 1914-17, with infantry and artillery... And the results were exactly the same as during the WWI - a long, exhausting, overextended slaughter.

Military details were well respected. On both sides soldiers carry weapons they really carried in 1944-45 - Garands, Thompsons and Browning BARs for Americans and Mauser 98, MP40 and MG42 for Germans. Hungarian army also helped with some of its hardware and as the result old Soviet M1939 85 mm anti-aircraft guns played in this film very convincingly the legendary German "acht-acht" (88 mm) anti-aircraft guns, which also happened to be one of the best antitank and infantry support weapons of World War II... Also, at one moment we can see a pair of Soviet-made self-propelled 2S1Gvozdika howitzers - once fitted with "schurzen" (thin lateral armor plates), additionnal turret armor and some camouflage nets, they can pass for the last variants of Panzer-IV which in 1944-45 would indeed wear quite a lot of additionnal armor and camouflage...

The scenario is not stupid at all and the ending is particularly strong. It is also a very good thing that although everybody curses and bitches all the time against the "stupid army", there is virtually no villain amongst the officers. It is true that the lieutenant-colonel and the captain seem to be extremely ruthless - but they are just doing their job and we realize soon enough that if they show any weakness their whole batallion will collapse and run... There is also one of the officers who ultimately will loose it because of being repeatedly shell shocked, but even then we can hardly see him as a villain... In fact in the whole film there is no villains or heroes - everybody is trapped in this seemingly neverending battle...

So, to conclude, this is a very, very good war film, which keeps a high quality of scenario and action from the beginning to the end. I am very happy that I discovered it and I am certain that any war films fan will be delighted after watching it. Enjoy!
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2002
This superb film was released in the wake of the hugely successful 'Saving Private Ryan' and was subsequently ignored and overlooked by the masses. 'Saving Private Ryan' also overshadowed the poetic and emotional 'Thin Red Line' yet this still was enjoyed by a wide audience. With this, already, flourishing market there was no room for this amazing movie. I only discovered it due to it being shown on satellite television and videoed it.
The film itself portrays a campaign which itself was overshadowed by the 'Battle of the Bulge' although it claimed the lives of thousands of Americans. The film itself avoids a hollywood style affair and also uses a mainly unknown cast yet the acting in the movie is consistently spot-on. The camera angles used also add to the films quality.
Overall this film is perhaps the hollywood blockbuster that never was combining the gritty detail of 'Saving Private Ryan' with the emotional struggles portrayed in 'The Thin Red Line'. I recommend that you buy this spectacular film and I'm sure that you will find it a great movie.
By Ed Hughes (15)
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 November 2007
Set in the fall of 1944 and the battle between American infantry forces and German defenders at Hurtgen Forest. It is the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought in its history and casualities were around 60.000 US soldiers. The battle was know for its brutality, probably more so since the battle lines hardly moved, similar to WW1 trench warfare. For all its brutality and sacrifice the Battle Of Hurtgen Forest has long been considered a forgotten battle, with the attention going to Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, probably because there is no glory in a stalemate.

The story itself is fiction and follows pvt Manning, the sole survivor of his group as he must lead new recruits into the meat grinder and is promoted against his wishes. Many of his comrades consider him to be flawed and question why he is alive when everyone else is dead. The new recruits must learn fast or die. So even if the story is fiction it tries to capture the spirit of the battle and its message is War is Hell.

War movie buffs will like it, attention is given to detail and even though it is a television production there are a lot of extras making the scenes convincing. Special mention should go to Martin Donovan as Capt. Roy Pritchett, pvt Mannings Company Commander. An intelligent man who sees the futility of the battle but must soldier on and push his men into the meat grinder while he wants nothing more than to keep them alive. A very strong preformance.

The script is well written and has connections to older war movies that some may spot and the story progresses well.

I enjoyed it and thought it was good and it has a worthy place in my collection.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2008
Band of Brothers raised the bar for the genre, but this is a very solid, short war movie concentrating on an attempt to capture a bridge at Hurtgen Forest. Ron Eldard leads a squad very much against his wishes, showing a different picture to the brotherhood portrayed in BoB. His motivations are purely personal, colouring his leadership and courage. This is a low budget effort from '98, and the dialogue is stilted, but the action is intense and brutal, displaying the chaos and fear to great effect. Worth a look for sure, but don't expect the glitz of Hollywood.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2000
This is an outstanding war drama with a cast of relative unknowns whose sheer quality belies its humble provenance. Though it bears comparison with Saving Private Ryan in its subject matter, visual style and its gritty depiction of the sanguinary realities of battle, it manages to eschew the cloying sentimentality of the Spielberg film and generally does an outstanding job of avoiding Hollywood formula and breathing something fresh and original into a well-worn genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2011
This WWII TV film explores the hardships of the American soldiers fighting Germans in the Hurtgen Forest, a bloody but lesser well known episode in the war. The film seems tame after Saving Private Ryan combat scenes, but is better constructed in terms of realistic situations and character development (or perhaps that should be 'character disintigration') with a number of very troubled but interesting portrayals of how different individuals react to the death and mayhem. The details and equipment are authentic, the action exciting yet sobering, the characters realistic and the scenes visually convinving. This is not a major classic, but it is a very worthy addition to a war buff's collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2010
this little gem of a movie is fairly tells the story of a World War II battle that is pretty much forgotten(but no less important)and overshadowed by other more famous's a gritty movie,with a rough unpolished look to it.there no big name superstars here either.this film has a more intimate personal feel to than many other war movies.the acting is first rate all around here,but Martin Donovan and Dwight Yoakam are real standouts.this movie is well worth the watch in my opinion.just like the battle it depicts,it may have been overshadowed by other war pictures with bigger budgets and bigger names,but this one is no less important.for me,When Trumpets Fade is a 4.6/5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2011
Another film bought solely because it starred Ron Eldard: I wasn't disappointed. A brilliant war film - not so spectacular as Private Ryan though - perhaps on a smaller budget however the film is definately one of Eldard's best. I'd recommend this film to anyone.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2002
This movie should rank in any war enthusiasts top five movies.
It portrays the fears and feelings of the ordinary soldier amid death and destruction in the hurtgen forest. it also portrays the frustration of the failings of the top brass to push mass attacks of men to their obvious slaughter.
there are personal moments of fear which puts you right there amid the forest fog.....where's your enemy........where's your own side? get off of your sofa and get involved-watch it!!
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