Only the Valiant (1951)

Someone once told me “I don’t watch Westerns and war movies. Too much blood and gore, too little character development, and no message to take home. Nothing but guts and glory.”

True, if (and this is a very big, very emphatic if) the only war films or Westerns you’ve ever seen are the straightforward action types (and even among those, old films tend to be far less gory than their newer counterparts—modern Westerns and war films like The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, True Grit, etc are, on the whole, far more graphic than their predecessors). But there’s nothing to stop a film—irrespective of genre—from also being well-written, from having good characterisation and character development, and from being something more than a battle of “let’s see who’s braver”. Some of the best films—in fact, even the films that I’ve found affirming virtues like humanity, peace, equality, and so on—I’ve seen have been war films or Westerns: Paths of Glory, La Grande Guerra, The Searchers

My point being, there are films out there that may seem, at first glance, deceptively run-of-the-mill genre film. Then, at closer inspection, they turn out to be something more.

Gregory Peck in Only the Valiant Continue reading

Crossfire (1947)

I am a devoted fan of Robert Mitchum, droopy eyes, awesome walk and all. I am also very enthusiastic about film noir (not surprising, since a large portion of Mitchum’s work was noir). Crossfire, made just two years after the end of World War II, focusses on a largely ignored consequence of the war: the sudden demobilisation of soldiers—men who, after years of knowing exactly whom they were supposed to hate, suddenly found themselves with no target for all that festering anger and hatred.
This is a taut, suspenseful film, but also a thought-provoking one, and perhaps a little ahead of its time.

Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Robert Young in Crossfire

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