The Fuhrer is not to be awakened.
“Data, data, we cannot make a film without data!” this film calls out (from beginning to end). Here’s a little taste:
“I don’t think I have to remind you that this war has been going on for almost five years, over half of Europe has been overrun and occupied. We’re comparative newcomers. England’s gone through a blitz with a knife at their throat since 1940…” Apparently, we did need reminding–laborious, poorly read reminding. It continues from there in setting the scene in the dullest fashion possible. They could have given us an essay at the top and it would have been less contrived. “It’s her birthday tomorrow . . . the sixth of June.” My God.
Some of this data is really cool–Rupert, the exploding paratrooper dummy is just awesome. But I really loved the Man Who Never Was (1956) and its ilk. The rest of it is more dull prologue and the names of dozens of men which I have no hope of remembering. Then it’s got documentary-style lines meant to be profound like a sea captain who says, “This is the greatest armada the world has ever known” or “Who was that guy, the one you were talking to so long?” to which the man responds “I don’t know, I’ve never met him before in my life.” Oh, that must mean the American soldiers from all over became friends and stuff! I get it! There’s really too many examples to mention.
Now. Caveat: I thought the Beethoven 5th Symphony bit (bu bu bu buuuuuum) at the beginning was just gratuitous, but really it’s Morse Code for V (for victory). The only reason I know that is one of those ludicrously conspicuous lines. Still, they wasted a perfectly excellent opportunity by not using the rest of the symphony as a soundtrack for the movie. Idiots.
This movie is so much like A Bridge Too Far (1977). It’s over long, it’s over cast, and it too dissects itself into oblivion. But the difference is A Bridge Too Far had a better, smaller cast and the dialogue immeasurably better written. Strangely, the dialogue in The Longest Day (1962) goes from functional to needlessly poetic with lightening speed. Most of the early scenes have the feeling that they’ve timed out two minutes for each, like rationing. Then later, it’s more like five or ten minutes a piece. How Henry Fonda got his mug on the cover, I’ll never know. I’m forced to imagine some very cynical scenarios. Very much against my nature.
Something good to say, something good… Oh, right. Like many history nerds, if this movie can be construed as a history nerd (and it safely can), it has a grasp on one thing (and one thing only): battles and fighting. Is that two things? No, I don’t think it is. The dialogue is pitiful much as a nerd might imagine it–or ruthlessly quote it–while the battles are well imagined and shot, so to speak.
Oh and the other thing I hated about this movie was that the German/French folk would be subtitled, but the translator’s energy gave out in parts so that chunks of what they said I have to leave to the crudest of contexts. I mean, if we were watching a movie all in French or all in German, I might get acclimated and context could win the day, but “Clickten mein flemple-bottom” isn’t going to ring any bells between “The invasion has begun!” and “Where is the panzer division?” It’s not vital that I know what was said, sure, but by that logic why subtitle at all?
Wait, was that Rod Steiger?
This movie was nominated for Best Picture when plenty should have taken its place. But that’s politics for you. And data for that matter.