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on 5 April 2017
One of my very favourite war movies and what a cast! Tough, charismatic Jack Palance as an equally tough yet caring platoon leader brilliantly described by one of his men (Robert Strauss) as '..a regular Cossack...(with) a heart of stone'. Great supporting cast includes Eddie Albert as their cowardly company commander, Buddy Ebsen as good ol' Southern boy made fine platoon sergeant, and Lee Marvin playing against type as their Southern State's National Guard 'genuINE' Colonel who only has political ambitions which have been somewhat thwarted by actually having to fight in a real war. Why wasn't he given a best supporting actor Oscar for this rather than Best Leading Actor Oscar for the ridiculous character/s he portrayed in 'Cat Ballou' which also denied Richard Burton a win for 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold'? Other fine members of the cast include William Smithers, Peter Van Eyck, Richard Jaeckel and Strother Martin. Great battle scenes and a real anti-war theme coupled with fine dialogue, photography and direction by the great Robert Aldrich. This is one I could watch every week!
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on 19 March 2016
War films which take a small part of the conflict to examine its characters in detail often succeed much better than the gung-ho epic efforts. If one looks at films like 'A Bridge too far' for instance, it is the smaller details, like the American sergeant forcing the doctor to examine his CO at gunpoint and thereby saving his life which are the most telling. In 'A Hill in Korea', the commanding officer stuck facing the advancing Chinese is on National Service and backed up by an experienced Sergeant-Major and other films like 'A Walk in the Sun' examine the dynamics of an American platoon making its advance in Italy.

'Attack' is a drama about people under extreme pressure. Most of them are experienced soldiers like Lt. Costa and Sergeant Tolliver whilst others like Captain Cooney have commands at that level due to serving in the National Guard. However, he is a coward whose Dad used to beat some guts into him but failing dismally. The only reason Cooney commands at all is due his 'friend' Clyde, a Lieutenant Colonel who has political ambitions with Cooney's father, The Judge, which would be wonderfully enhanced if he {a) brought Cooney home from the war or better still, (b) brought him home a hero. The latter wasn't going to happen,After Cooney has caused Costa's plat but a dead 'hero' would also serve the purpose

After Cooney has caused the deaths of Costa's squad in a previous action in Aachen, It is obvious that the two will do more than cross swords. Costa knows that Clyde is protecting Cooney whose background was more privileged than his; Costa came from Pittsburgh and is physically strong and assertive - a natural soldier. His colleague Lt. Woodruff, Clyde's executive officer and liasion man is the only way Costa can get across his disgust of Cooney, his superior officer. A game of cards becomes very tense when, instead of believing that their war was over, the squad is summoned urgently back to duty because of the German breakthrough in the Battle of the Bulge. Costa tells Cooney that if he were to '-foul up, just once, I'll shove this grenade down your throat and pull the pin!' The battle lines are set.

The town of Lanelle has to be taken by Cooney whose orders are relayed to Costa. At this point, the squad is in the hands of officers who know what they're doing. The plan was to advance down hill into the ruins of Lanelle and hide up in that lil' ol' house at the edge of the town. Costa tells his soldiers to advance in line keeping timed spaces between the lines. If the town is occupied, the advance would be stopped so that not all of his squad would be trapped. What happened subsequently examined the details of fighting a war within the rules of the Geneva Convention and not succeeding and the consequences for Jewish soldiers if they are captured by the SS whose panzers occupy the town. The squad has to retreat , covered by artillery, but more soldiers are lost.

Costa is a brave soldier who almost saves his squad from tank attack by using a bazooka and grenade; unfortunately his heroism proved to be his downfall. Clyde meanwhile tells off Cooney about why he did not hold the town as he was told to do. At this point, Cooney broke down completely, reverting to childhood almost and it was up to Lieutenant Woodruff to take the situation in hand and take command. This all eventually ends up in a cellar and the confrontation between Cooney, the tin soldier, and Costa the dying man of steel .

These set pieces which stayed from the stage play heightened the tension. The war outside was less important than the conflict inside caused by soldiers failing to do their duty and putting others in danger. These were human conflicts which did not necessarily have war as their precursor but were deadly in a war situation. The acting by everybody was superb. Jack Palance as Costa was so convincing, Lee Marvin as the duplicitous Clyde using the war ruthlessly as a political stepping stone was terrific but Eddie Albert as Cooney had the most difficult role to play as it is not easy for a man to play a coward in a war film. Robert Strauss and other actors playing soldiers did not look as if they were acting whilst Buddy Ebsen as Tolliver put over in his folksy,down-home style what he thought of Cooney. In all,this was a gripping drama looking at human strengths and weaknesses under the stress of guns, smoke, violence and death - we choked on them all.
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on 6 December 2017
You can see this started off as a stage show, being light on locations (basically only 3 scenes) but bags of fun regardless. Palance is good, and this shows him off well. There are times when it comes across more like 'Death of a salesman' or a similar 1950s show, because it's more about the people and not about the War per se.
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on 15 December 2015
This is a great film, much brooding atmosphere, forget that it's in black & white, war's horrible in any colour.
Great acting and fine cast.
I think this is one of Jack Palance's best films.
We are constantly reminded of famous lines from films such as On the Water Front, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca etc., but this film has one better:
"Play the gutless wonder once more Cooney and I'll ram this grenade down your throat and pull the pin!" (eat your heart out Marlon Brando).
Make this a 'must' buy for the festive break.
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on 18 May 2018
Another great film about bravery and cowardice, which takes place during the Battle of the Ardennes Winter 1944.
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on 20 June 2018
A good world war 2 film
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on 17 May 2018
Very gritty war film. One of the best!
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on 25 September 2017
brilliant
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on 29 April 2011
palance, mean moody and magical, does a wee bit of character building when he works on an implement while delivering dialogue, just shows you actors don't have to be dumb.buddy ebsen lee marvin and eddy albert are really good in supporting roles, this is the way that i remember war films from the fifties
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on 13 March 2016
how differant people deal with war and how it makes some people behave... a very very good war movie ..
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