Most helpful positive review
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