The Longest Day - 1962
Directors:
Ken Annakin (British exteriors)
Andrew Marton (American exteriors)
Bernhard Wicki (German scenes)
Darryl F. Zanuck
        
Screenplay:
Romain Gary
James Jones
David Pursall
Cornelius Ryan
Jack Seddon

Based on the D-Day Invasion on June 6th, 1944
           
This Movie was one of the original war movies that wanted to show it like it is. This was also the first World War II movie to actually use German Speaking actors; and not just actors with a german accent. Like all movies that have been made pre-Kubrick lacked the perfectionist feeling to it. When an actor was shot he would clutch his chest, or point of entry and fall down, This was the only indicator that he had been hit. This movie did make very good use of blanks though, as all the actors seemed to take great relish in unloading clips at amazing speed. The explosions caused by tanks, destroyers, and cannons were very well choreographed in this movie. At times, the lack of special effects really took away from the movie however, in one case when the german planes were sweeping down on the men on the beach , their gunfire did not pick up any sand, in fact, all it was, was a machine gun sound, and the video from a plane of the beach and men falling down. This film had a hint of humor to it, as if to lighten the mood that men all around were dying. This film was also long and drawn out, and lacking in the way of special effects. However, if nothing, they tried and did the best with what they had. It is important to note however, that this film was a big groundbreaker in the fact that it was the first to use foreign languages, and considered the definitive war movie up until 1998 when "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" were released.

Saving Private Ryan - 1998
Director:
Steven Spielberg
Screenplay:
Robert Rodat

Inspired by the story of Fritz Niland

While the storyline itself is fictitious, it has many true facts laced within the storyline, including the beach landing, the overdrop of the paratroopers, and the use of gliders that flew in with troops and supplies. The movie was done so well, that the first viewing of the Omaha beach landing had to be paused in several places so the veterans watching it could gather their emotions. This movie was a tear jerker for those that were there, and those that weren't, they know at least a little of what they had to go through. This movie is possibly the first film to actually do justice for what they had to go through for our freedom. The special effects for this movie are astounding and the most dominating scene of this entire movie was the opening battle for omaha beach. The beach scene was shot with hand held cameras, where body parts were strewn about during the fight, bullets whizzed by, and explosions were well choreographed with the turmoil going on the rest of the beach.

We were Soldiers - 2002
Director:
Randall Wallace
Screenplay:
Randall Wallace

Based on the Book: "We were Soldiers Once... and Young" written by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

This movie was made four years after "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line", so it has the advantage of advanced special effects, that no previous film had. The story is the first account events of the Ia Drang Valley Battle, the first major combat that the Americans had with the North Vietnam Army. Mel Gibson, playing as Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and Barry Pepper as Joe Galloway are the two main characters and the movie is based on these two mens accounts of what happened here. Oon the day before he was to lead his men off to war, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore addressed his soldiers and their families. Before him were young men, still innocent to war, and older men already bearing the scars and decorations of battle. And sitting among them listening to her husband's words, was Moore's own wife, Julie, who had seen him up late at night studying history books about various massacres, strategizing a better outcome for his men, the First Battalion of the Seventh Calvary... the same regiment as General George Armstrong Custer. This movie showed both sides of the war, one of the few that addresses the issue; the battle at home. It showed the terror the wives had to face each day, knowing that someone could deliver the bad news.


Notes:

I would like to start off with a poem by an unknown soldier:

And when he gets to Heaven
To Saint Peter he will tell:
One more soldier reporting, Sir
I've served my time in Hell

[Start]War is Hell. War is awful. War takes the place as some of the most tragic times in our past. What's the point of war movies? They help us understand what war is like. So we don't relive the living hell that the men in wars before us went through. The world's a better place because of the wars we've won. The movies made are a memorabilia to those who have fallen. The more real the movies are the more we'll understand.

[End]We are to do justice to the veterans by recreating as much as possible the events that happened. It couldn't be any other way. The message that war movies are giving us is: Don't let these men die in Vain.

Squibs: They are Blood Packs. They are made with condoms and explosives. The condoms are filled with fake blood, and then sealed off, they are then places on the explosive under the actors clothing. The clothing itself is sanded down or slightly cut to provide a way for the squib to break through the clothing thus reducing the likelihood of injuring the actor. Cinematography for squibs works best when the director zooms in on the shot thus allowing you to take in the effect or to allow the effects wizard to do a flawless squib that doesn't even have to be on the actor.

Explosives and Pyrotechnics: These are essential to all great action packed war movies. These are also a dangerous addition to any set that uses them. The use of these explosives must always be in a supervised environment. They are used for destroying terrain, buildings, or large groups of people.

Blanks: A blank is a bullet that has the warhead removed. Safety is the most important aspect of using bullets on the set. The blank is fired like a regular bullet, though there is no projectile moving out of the end of the barrel. There are many levels of blanks too. There are some that don't have as much cordite(gunpowder) packed into them, or the regular kind,

Writing: Luckily, War Movies need little in the way of writing. These movies are based on factual events and as such, do quite well if they are portrayed as they actually happened. However, to peak interest levels, Hollywood has to step in and grab the reigns of creativity and let loose. They add events that never happened, or seem to glorify their actions by doing actions with much gusto. Good examples in War movies would be when the American soldiers go into battle wiping out the Nazi Soldiers without taking losses, or having the perfect aim without any “technical” difficulties. The fact of the matter is that War is never like the movies, it is much worse, but with today's technology, we are getting to the point that if it wasn't for the fact that we knew we were watching a movie, it would feel like you were right there on the front lines. Writing of War movies is usually done enhancing characters by writing a history of the character, and emotion, or character flaws that may weaken the character.

Actors: Soldiers Inc. is a company run by a retired marines capt. Dale Dye, that trains the actors how to be soldiers for the role they are in. His job is to basically make the actors miserable. Actually, he takes them on ruck marches, shoots at them with blanks, and gives them very little sleep. He makes these Hollywood actors field ready. As the saying goes, no combat ready troop ever passed inspection and that applies both ways. Thus, letting them know that the price of freedom did not come easy for the men they are simulating.

Cinematography: The director at times may choose to change the smoothness of how the movie is filmed depending on their location. On the Parade Square the director may choose to have very smooth filming where the camera is on a camera track. Like in "Saving Private Ryan" Spielberg had the entire beach scene filmed with handheld cameras to simulate the jerkiness of movement that the men had to do to escape certain death.


Resources:

Internet:

This Site has a simple recipe for bloodpacks: http://www.foreignimage.com/Bloodpacks.html

This site is the Internet Movie Database. It contains information on movies that the movies themselves don't provide: IMDB.com

This site is a presentation about realism of War Movies: http://ms.students.estrellamountain.edu/Shaun-Penrod/Operation_Reel.htm

Books:

Baxter, John. The Unauthorized Biography of Steven Spielberg. Bury St. Edmunds: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996.

Culhane, John. Special Effects in the Movies. New York: Hilltown Press, Inc., 1981.

Martin, Charles Cromwell. Battle Diary. Judith Turnbull. Louiseville: Gagné Printers Ltd., 1994 .

Strome Galloway. Bravely into Battle. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1988.