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72 of 79 people found the following review helpful
This film originally premiered at Cannes in 1980. Unfortunately the producers, fearful it would seem of bringing down another "Heavens Gate" on the film industry, had eviscerated director Sam Fuller's original lengthy cut to less than two hours. This rendered the film so incomprehensible that it needed a voice over, a la "Bladerunner", to bridge the gaps where the original footage was missing so it made some sort of vague sense to the audience. The producers had deemed also that Fullers film was too violent. Imagine a war film too violent. It's a bit like complaining about a comedy because it's too funny.
Last year Cannes was treated to this restored version of Fullers bloody visceral masterpiece and it went down a storm. At last this film was seen as Fuller originally intended it, eight years after his death? Restored with original material by a team headed by film critic Richard Schikel, who provides a typically dry but informative commentary, this is a film with the resolute stamp of empirical authority. Fuller had fought inWW2, taking part in the Omaha beach landings and his minds eye view of proceedings lends the film a veracity few films can match.
The main characters are all part of the First Infantry, the "Big Red One", so called because of the red ribbons they wore on their shoulders. Ex Marine Lee Marvin in his last great role plays the gruff Sergeant along with Privates Griff, Zab, Vinci and Johnson. Griff is played by Mark Hamill at the peak of his "Star Wars" fame, and we see him morph from a reticent soldier to a diffident pitiless killer. We follow them from the Omaha beach landing right through to the liberation of a Nazi death camp and the film is essentially a series of intense brutal action sequences interspersed with periods of quiet refection, ennui and the cold dread of impending death. There is a grim humour in the script- you'll probably laugh as one unfortunate soldier gets a testicle shot off- but there are also flashes of poetry and one or twice it is quite moving though not in the sly knowing way that a Spielberg or Stone can be.
Films about war are now being made by people who have either learnt about them second hand or are referencing other war movies and while The Big red one doesn't have anything quite as viscerally shocking as that famous opening sequence from "Saving Private Ryan" but unlike that slightly preposterous bravura jingoistic film it has genuine stamp of authority and a sense of almost documentary realism. As the slogan at the films beginning says: "This is factual life based on actual death"
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2005
An amazing film - you can understand why the producers didn't like it because it's too sprawling, and serious, funny, desolate and thoughtful all at the same time. How do you make sense of something of the scope of this movie in 2.5 hours. Yes, the film is sprawling, and the gaps are noticable, but the sheer number of scenes describing the full diversity of human feeling are to be treasured.
And if you like Lee Marvin then you need to see him in this, possibly his best acting role ever. This man doesn't need words as his face speaks volumes, like all the great actors of yester-year. There's some great supporting actors here too, and you'll finally realise Mark Hammill could act before he got his Star Wars cheque-for-life.
But I digress, so back to this movie. Put simply, if you like Saving Private Ryan or (the great) Band of Brothers then you need to see this movie, to realise how much they depend on it.
But forget those action movies. This is a far more complex film, as it tries to make more sense of the senselessness of war more than any other war movie, bar perhaps Mallick's Thin Red Line and Kubrick's Paths of Glory. They're the only other war movies with this depth of thought, emotion and humanity. And, of course, the sheer waste of war.
Watch this and discover a lost gem, a multi faceted look into the affect war has on us.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2006
Without doubt this version is one of the greatest examinations of the effects of war on the individual. While it still displays the lack of realism in the battle sequences which are redolent of it's roots in the war films of the 60s and 70s, drawing comparisons to recent war films special effects and approach to realism being pointless given it's age; it's ability to shock by using the transformations that overtake the men as a result of the continual fighting and the horrors of war is the point of the film and the humanity displayed by them despite the ordeal. It also draws an interesting parallel to elements of both "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers", it must have been inspirational in both cases. Far more than an action film and a fine example from it's era.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2009
Often when a film has been "lost" there's a good reason for it, but "The Big Red One" (emphasis on One when pronouncing it) is a classic case of stupid studio butchery. I have to say that this is also a film which will divide people; my partner and I had a violent argument after seeing it. I thought it pretty much knocked any other war film into a cocked hat, but he couldn't see what was special about it. In particular he seized on what I agreed is the weakest section of the film, where Lee Marvin tries to bring a traumatised concentration camp boy victim back to some kind of life. He does this with the aid of a musical box, and very glibly. Fuller always got tacky with small children around (think if the Indian child in "Run of the Arrow") and while I will forgive him almost anything for his great moments, this is a long sequence and almost fatally slack at the point in the movie we should be galopping home.

Fuller's life and his movies were shaped by his WW2 experience, and this account of a small unit led by The Sergeant (Lee Marvin) from North Africa in 1942 to the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945 is his most autobiographical movie. In the platoon there is a cigar-chewing character, Zab (Robert Carradine), a potential writer of thrillers, who is clearly based on Fuller down to a physical resemblance, and Fuller himself even makes a brief appearance as a war correspondent shooting 8mm movie footage. This feeling of authenticity (which is not the same as realism) is what makes the movie stand out for me. If ever a movie showed you what it was like to be in a war, this is it. From the moment that the soldiers break out their condoms to protect the barrels of their guns as they go ashore, this is awash with telling detail which is not only "real" but adds to the cumulative message of the whole - rubbers which should be associated with affection and fun turned to part of the war machine.

Like all good war movies, it is violently anti-war. It starts with a legend "This is a fictional story based on factual death", and this is hammered home right to the last line. Perhaps the most unforgettable sequence in a movie which contains many occurs about 2 hours into it; the platoon is in Belgium and has to dislodge some Germans billeted in an insane asylum. As they are killing the "Huns" surrounded by cheerful, eating Downs Syndrome children, one of the inmates grabs a sub-machine gun and starts firing it off, crying "I'm just the same as you now. I'm sane! I'm sane!" War, Fuller is saying, drives everyone crazy, and turns everyone's feelings to stone. You daren't get to know anyone because they're going to die on you next day anyway. Which is why it is so important for The Sergeant - he is never named - to revive the concentration camp boy. He is also trying to revive himself.

Fuller is on record as saying that in casting Lee Marvin he wanted an actor who could play Death, and Marvin's four accolytes are called the Four Horsemen (of the Apocalypse) by the other soldiers. I don't feel this symbolism stacks up exactly, because the whole point about Death is that it should be even-handed - Americans and Germans, Civilians and Soldiers all falling under the scythe. Here it's notable that the civilians are well-treated, the elderly german "Folk Army" offering pathetic defiance in the Rhineland is scared , the Hitler youth is given a good spanking, rather than being shot.

This is a loving reconstruction based on Fuller's shooting script, so it's as authentic as it can get. However, you can't help feeling that if Fuller were doing it himself, it would all be that little bit tighter. It is also, for Fuller, a surprisingly restrained film; in particular the liberation of the concentration camp survivors is conveyed mainly by huge close-ups of their eyes looking out of the dark at the soldiers. Whether this is in the reconstruction editing, or Fuller's own vision, I can't say.

It's a measure of Fuller's achievement that the one person we want desperately to survive is, in the end, a German soldier, because on his survival the humanity of the others depends.

The extras are excellent - a hypnotic interview with Fuller about his career, and an affectionate but by no means rosy memoir of working with Fuller from the four surviving platoon actors; the actual filming seems to have been almost as traumatic as the war.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2012
A curious film which I may have undervalued. It's interesting throughout in a strangely clumsy way at times. It looks low budget (tight shots of the landing beaches dwarfed in the mind by Spielberg's efforts), explosions you might find (along with the unremarkable music) in a tv movie, average acting in some areas and a fairly woeful (Platoon-like) voiceover. Then there are some very impressive set pieces, some great humorous touches, Lee Marvin's presence (though he seems old and thin) and an undeniably interesting structure as well as some occasionally sublime camera shots. In some ways uninvolving, not particularly moving, but distinctly cinematic in scope and ambition.
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on 4 August 2014
good film, bit slow in parts, but I like Lee marvin.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2010
I can't really add to what's already been said by most of the other positive reviews of this excellent war film. I will though comment on two of the negative reviews of the film here as it brings up an interesting point - what it actually feels like to be a private in an Infantry section.

Two reviewers here have compared this negatively to Speilberg's ''Saving Private Ryan'' and Peckinpah's ''Cross of Iron'' for not having a strong story and not taking enough of a stance on whether the film is anti-war or not.

''The Big Red One'' is as close to my experiences as being an infantryman (even though I was never in actual combat) as I have seen and I think these viewers missed the point of the film. It dosen't hit the viewer over the head like''Ryan'' and ''Cross'' do with the message that war is hell, though it does send that message in more subtle ways. The film's message and it's plot concerns actually surviving combat and the overall experience of been a soldier and how it changes you.

I had to laugh at the comparisons to the two aforementioned films as though I am a fan of Speilberg and Peckinpah they are both filmakers that make very stylized films and I found their takes on war to be quite heavy-handed and preachy. In ''Ryan'' in a few scenes Infantry boss Tom Hanks bares his soul to his men - a move that actual real life World War 2 veteran Lee Marvin knew was something that wouldn't happen in reality and here in his best performance he shows what it actually takes to be a leader of men in the military. I would even suggest seeing the film for his nuanced performance alone though this film also has a lot else to recommend it too.

''The Big Red One'' is an experience that should be endured.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2007
Just watched this film on DVD today for the first time i have never seen this movie before the reconstruction so the only version i have seen is the new one but what a brilliant film this is if your a big fan of war movies you will love this more battle then chat which is good brilliant score a lot of funny moments and the good thing the second disc is PACKED FULL OF EXTRAS i wont give to much away but see this film and you not be dissapointed.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2005
The original was a just under average WWII film. Seeing the original, it is 300% better. It makes sense. The voice-over has gone. It takes in battles that were important, but not famous.
If this film had been released, Saving Ryans Privates wouldnt have had the same impact, not because of the war scenes, but the humanity.
It takes the film from a standard action hero WWII fil, to a proper take on the human side of war.
Original (in my opinion) : 2/5
Reconstruction (this one) : 4.5/5
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on 9 May 2013
Classic well worth buying.
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