Haley Patton’s review of “The War Below”

The film “The War Below” directed by J.P. Watts, is based on the true story of a group of miners called the “Claykickers” or “Manchester Moles” who were on the Western Front during World War I. This specialized group of miners was instructed to dig tunnels under No Man’s Land to then eventually bomb the Germans from underneath. The British Army has recruited this group of miners to set off bombs in the tunnels to defeat the enemy in hopes of ending the Battle of Messines. The protagonist in this film is Sam Hazeldine who plays “William Hawkin” in “The War Below”. Sam Hazeldine is also seen in tv shows including “Peaky Blinders” and “Resurrection”. Most of the cast in “The War Below” are not well-known actors in Hollywood, but all the actors have incredible talent that helps portray the story in this film.  

The movie begins with William Hawkin going in for a health inspection to be able to draft into the war. Hawkin does not pass the health inspection though due to a crack in his lung which is disappointing for him because he wants to serve his country. This does not keep William Hawkin and the other reject miners from serving in the war though as they are recruited for a special tunnel mission under No Man’s Land. The movie shoots back and forth from the men digging this tunnel and Hawkin’s wife back at home. This could be seen as distracting to some viewers due to the sudden switch from war to the homeland and the switch in emotions associated with each. This leads to the topic of the filming of “The War Below” and how this lower budget production gave a decent story of the “Claykickers”. This film does not do a perfect job at displaying this story of these brave miners but for the lower budget and not-so-well-known actors, it does the job for the circumstances.  

The cast of “The War Below” are not well known in the film industry but they make their marks in this movie. It was interesting seeing most of the actors in this film have very great acting abilities, yet I have never seen them in any other popular film. Sam Hazeldine does a great job at being the lead in this movie as he really helps guide the emotion and tenseness of the war within this group of miners. He does not only play a miner as he is also a father in the film, which shows another side of his character. The only complaint I have about the casting is how other than Hazeldine’s character there was not much humanity given to other characters. The audience was not informed much about their backgrounds, current life outside of the war, but we were given personalization of what their emotions were in that exact moment of their screentime. In fact, I felt like every character was just a puzzle piece moving through the motions to get to the end result. This is not the actor’s fault but the fault of the screenwriters and director for not letting the audience dive into each character’s personal narrative. There could’ve been a lot more improvement with this aspect because the actors playing these roles of the characters in “The War Below” have the potential to be great in their abilities. 

Overall, this film brings the audience through an emotional roller-coaster that shows the incredible story of the Battle of Messines and the miner group the “Claykickers”. This movie was slightly mediocre but was not terrible in its filming abilities to portray the miner’s journey at the front. With less filming of jumping back and forth from the front to the home front and more focus on the dangerous digging process, this film could’ve been more interesting. The actors that were chosen for this movie did a good job at portraying these characters; more background given to these characters though would’ve personalized the storyline more. “The War Below” did an average job at portraying the specialized group of miners that were at times bittersweet in their journey at the front.

Emily Koberlein’s review of “A Bear Named Winnie”

A Bear Named Winnie (2004) is based on the true story of Captain Harry Coleman who rescued a bear cub on his way to camp. He is a member of the army veterinary corps and on his way to take care of soldier’s horses during World War I. The author A.A. Milne visited Winnie in the London Zoo with his son Christopher, and Winnie’s charm inspired him to write and develop the children’s book character known as Winnie the pooh. 

This movie begins in Canada in 1914, just before Captain Harry Coleman is set to leave for camp. He purchases a bear for $20 from a hunter who shot her mother, and is able to sneak her on the train with him by identifying her as the veterinary corps’s mascot. Winnie shares a tent with Harry and Macray, who take care of her while looking after the horses and other animals in the army. Winnie gets herself into trouble throughout the movie and is an escape artist, though the whole group bonds with her and spends any free time they have playing with her. She is a real morale booster that allows the men to come together to promote something positive while preparing to move to England and then over to the front lines. They try to release her back into the wilderness, but it is clear that Winnie has become dependent upon human interaction. Harry and Mcray sneak Winnie to England with them, but they know she cannot be brought to the front lines. They take her to the London zoo, where she ultimately remains a permanent member. 

The shooting of this movie is fairly standard, there is nothing really unique about the way it is filmed in regards to visuals. However, there are elements of this movie that give it a certain level of charisma and allow the viewer to connect with the events that are unfolding. The transitions are what truly stick out. From the very beginning, the dates are displayed so that it is clear what moments are the present day, flashbacks, and the locations where the events are unfolding. Furthermore, my favorite part of this movie was the upbeat, ragtime piano music that was used for a majority of transitions. It almost is reminiscent of a silent film; this music was played when Winnie escaped from her post and was wandering through the camp, but also when there were montages of Winnie learning how to collect food and growing. This was a unique way to portray time passing; very little elements of this movie focused on the war itself. It was primarily upbeat, lighthearted, and focused around the life and circumstances surrounding Winnie and how she came to be in the London Zoo. The war itself was merely an obstacle on her journey, rather than an influencing factor or any main plot point. 

The actors were very well chosen for this movie. Michael Fassbender portrays Captain Harry Coleman, and Jonathan Young plays Macray. Fassbender is able to capture the stern outer shell of a man touched by the war, but he captivates the audience with his undeniable connection to animals and boyish charm. Macray is a stereotypical nerdy sidekick, with a soft spot for an older horse that he is unable to part with. The General and the Colonel were portrayed by harsh, brunt men who could not be bothered by things as insignificant as a mascot. However, as the movie continues the Colonel is touched by Winnie’s spirit, and the sense of comradeship she instills in the men of the artillery she represents. 

Overall this film was sweet to watch. I was brought to tears when they tried to return her to the wild, but I do have a soft spot for animals in movies. The directors were able to create a sense of loyalty between the viewer and Winnie by starting the film by showing the hunter killing her mother and selling her to escape the guilt of orphaning her. It was an interesting story to learn the context of, and there are some very heartfelt moments. It reminded me of a family movie that is not quite a Disney movie. While I did enjoy this movie, I could not say I would watch it again, though I would recommend it to someone who was interested in Winnie the Pooh and its origin story.

Miranda Colbert’s review of “1917”

Word Count: 688

In times where modern technology has enhanced movies to unbelievable heights, it is comforting to see the simplicity of a story told in one continuous shot. Even though this isn’t a new idea, (the first one-shot film being in 1948) it is sort of a refreshing change of pace. Taking on this challenge in his movie, “1917” Director Sam Mendes attempts to capture the horrors of World War One. Partially inspired by his grandfather’s war stories, he tells the tale of two young soldiers, Lance Corporal Schofield (George McKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) who are ordered to head through “no mans land” to a nearby company to call off an attack. As the two get closer to the front lines, the horrors of war become apparent. 

Though the technical skill of Mendes cannot be denied, it’s hard to focus on anything other than that. Because the film was more of an extended shot it prevents anything else from stealing away the focus. The point of having multiple angles in the movie is to give a different perspective on a certain subject. It is also a refreshing change of pace so the viewer is constantly stimulated. Taking away from the angles makes the viewer hyper focused on other elements. For me, I was focused on the story itself, which was lackluster in my opinion. I felt as though Mendes focused on the technical aspect so much that the plot ended up being predictable and simplistic. It got rid of the interesting characters, or a reason for them to continue on other than the mission they were handed in the beginning of the film. Film reviewer, Peter Sobczynski, explained it as “watching someone else play a video game for a solid two hours.” I agree with his point, it felt as if the person playing the video just went through the main mission without doing any of the interesting side quests. They got to the point of the game, but did not let the viewer see why the game was amazing. 

I feel as though the actors were properly chosen. They were average when it came to looks, which emphasized the point that anyone at that time could have been a soldier. They’re acting was decent (though I guess you could blame that on an average script). There wasn’t much emotion involved, but when there was it was accurately displayed.*  McKay also accurately expressed the emotions of exhaustion as well as desperation toward the end of his mission. His constant determination throughout the film was nothing to be laughed at as well. 

The film does a great job with providing enough history for the viewers to understand, without boring them to death. I know for me personally, it is hard to pay attention to long speeches filled with information. Mendes relays information through short dialogue and context clues that help the viewer get enough to have an understanding without being an expert. Since the movie isn’t about World War I specifically (though that is when it was set), but rather how awful war is, it is unnecessary for the viewer to know every detail.Because it also takes place in the middle of the war itself, it would have been impossible to explain how the war went since the character wouldn’t know that information. Which Mendes understands and accounts for. 

Overall, I think it was a good movie. Would I say I’d watch it again or buy it? Not really. The movie was definitely well filmed and Mendes is obviously talented, but I don’t think he’s a writer. There were many issues in the film but not enough for it to be considered horrible. 


*For example Lieutenant Joseph Blake’s (Richard Madden) reaction to the death of his brother was accurate. It wasn’t dramatic but more on the numb side. It felt as though he had dealt with death and was not trying to let it get to him. The scene was strong as well as realistic in my opinion. 


Katia’s review of The Burying Party

The one-hour run of The Burying Party (2018) contains the ghosts of several films. A gritty war film depicting the real life poet Wilfred Owen’s first exposures to the trenches; a film that dives deep into the literary world he occupies, giving greater detail and focus to its cast and their interpersonal relationships. A deep dive into the development of Owen’s writing voice; a condemnation of war-hungry empire. Potentially, even, two or more hours that try tries to combine some or all of these features. 

The Burying Party itself is is not any of these films, but I think it accomplishes an unusual sense of completeness in its fragmented brevity. As it moves across time and space, through disparate visual and auditory worlds, it interweaves snapshots of Owen’s life at the front and on leave. In other words, the film can roughly be split into his witnessing first-hand “the pity of war,” and the interpersonal, artistic journey that enabled him to capture it, in such a way that we’re reading and remembering him now, over a hundred years later. 

The film’s contrasting settings are conveyed with care and detail. We open on Owen (Matthew Staite) at war, surrounded with what I’ve come to think of universally as gray-green “World War One color grading,” and accompanied by the haunting, discordant sounds of a piercing yet irresolute soundtrack, which punctuated by the sounds of the war itself. When the next scene finds him back home, in his mother’s house, seeing him clean and indoors is as jarring to the viewer as it clearly feels to the character. 

As he and the rest of the cast navigate indoor spaces, as well as the breathtaking English pastoral scenes that our friend-from-two-weeks-ago Sigfried Sassoon (Sid Phoenix) critiques Owen for lauding in his early poetry, the contradictions at play within these poets’ emotional lives surface with these alterations in visual worlds. These are mirrored by the soundtrack, which alternates between the harshly modern instrumentals of the war scenes, the stately pianos and violins of indoor social spaces, the birdsong and seaside of the English outdoors, and – at certain times, like the first meeting between Owen and Sassoon – the perfect silence that backgrounds dialogue. 

Owen and Sassoon’s dynamic fruitfully evades explicit melodrama or overstatement but nonetheless read to me as the heart of the film. While I’m unfamiliar with all but the most famous of Owen’s works, and only know the basic outline of his biography, the interplay between the two (and at times others in their circles) surrounding war poetry and its mission felt memorable and specific in a way that literary-biography type movies sometimes fail to achieve. I don’t know how it would play to experts, or to people with less knowledge of early twentieth century English literary circles than I, but to me the exposition surrounding the cast’s relationships and life positions felt effective and economical.

Outside of art, politics, and war, in the world of feeling or affection, more is unsaid between Owen and Sassoon than said for the majority of the movie. The intensity of this oft-mythologized literary mentorship was effectively carried by Staite and Phoenix, both in the realm of independent acting choices and the quietly intense chemistry between the two. 

As an admirer and writer of creative nonfiction, watching The Burying Party acts in close parallel to the experience of reading a fragmented lyric essay. We do not get the full story, but the parts we get are vivid and well-chosen enough to form a cohesive whole nonetheless. We might yearn, in fact (or at least I did), for hours of watching Owen and Sassoon discuss poetic form, for Owen, Sassoon, and Graves to get to sing the entirety of The Leaving of Liverpool without breaking off, for Owen to have a full conversation with his mother. But each moment we get to see is beautifully crafted; and when it comes to Wilfred Owen himself, time’s limited run is arguably the entire point.

Riley Smith’s Review of Sergeant York (1941)

The film Sergeant York is based on the life of Alvin C. York’s 1928 autobiography Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary. The real Alvin York repeatedly refused producer Jesse Lasky’s requests to make the movie, but York eventually agreed so he could use the profits to finance an interdenominational Bible school under the one condition that Gary Cooper star in it. The source material being an autobiography and the focus on Cooper highlight an interesting aspect of the novel; unlike many World War One works where individuality is taken away, this film focuses more on York as a person than the war or any groups as a whole. Sergeant York is thought to be a fairly accurate representation of the real story because the people it is based on pushed for accuracy. The movie was very successful, ranking as the highest grossing movie of 1941 and a press release dated July 2, 1941 states that Sergeant York was the first motion picture to be made into a stage play. At the 14th Academy Awards, the film was widely recognized with many nominations and two awards as Gary Cooper won Oscars Best Actor and William Holmes won Best Film Editing. 

In the beginning of the movie, set in spring 1916, Alvin York causes trouble in town and drinks too much; his mother, Mrs. York, is very worried about him and asks the pastor to talk to him. After almost making a life-altering mistake, Alvin is struck by lightning and becomes a devout Christian. When he is drafted, he faces a religious dilemma and applies to be a conscientious objector. The movie then follows him on his journey in the war after his application is denied. Overall, I found the movie to be well done. Since the movie was made in 1941, the lack of advanced production technique puts a lot of focus on the actors. Cooper has an impressive performance as he is very believable in the small-town role as well as a competent soldier. One of the best parts of the film is how genuine his connections with the other residents of Pall Mall appear. They are a tight knit community and this is an interesting contrast to what we see on the warfront. However, there is not as heavy a focus on York’s bond with his fellow soldiers as most scenes involving them are primarily for comic relief and there are not many emotionally impactful scenes where he interacts with other soldiers. Compelling source material and strong acting create an endearing combination of characters in the film; while York stands out as the one audiences feel the most connected to, his fiance, pastor, and mother contribute to the storyline and deliver the film’s emotional impact. 

While the movie is primarily set in Pall Mall, which is located in northern Tennessee near the Kentucky border, it was filmed in various locations in California. The small town setting is important because York has a deep connection to the land and the natural world has a large role in his life, such as his desire to buy land, and he goes into nature to reflect on going to war. He says “Fellow’s got to have his roots somewhere,” reinforcing how important his home is, and therefore how important the setting is. There are not a lot of extra elements added to the setting, which forces audiences to appreciate nature’s role as well as the acting. The war scenes were created with the help of a military technical director as there were specific aspects of the Battle of Argonne the producers wanted to include. York’s strategy to capture the German prisoners, which mirrored how he hunted Turkeys at home, was replicated to be as accurate as possible. Throughout the film, the lighting is fairly dark, which makes the flashes more jarring, especially when York is struck by lightning. The set enhances the already engaging storyline which traces York’s journey in faith, love, and war. When I watched the film, I was surprised by how little screen time the war has in the film as he does not actually go to war until over halfway through, but ultimately this emphasizes his humanity and shows how war pulls young men out of their plans. 

The movie begins with an on-screen text message thanking those who consented to be in it and states they pray for a day without war. But, since the movie came out right before the US entered WWII, it actually increased enlistment as men signed up for the army right after viewing the film. This begins a chain of conflicting messages within the movie as it can both be seen as anti and pro war. There are symbolic messages about the war’s senselessness. For instance, showing York and all the men going about their day to day lives in their small town with working towards land, interacting with each other, etc is an excellent way to demonstrate how the war is a politicians war, not the war of the men actually fighting it. Mrs. York and her daughter discuss the war as the daughter asks “Ma what are they-a fighting for ” and she replies “I don’t a-rightly know,” which is a symbol of how little people understood of the war, especially those in the country removed from politics. The American perspective, especially one from a man in a small town in Tennessee is an interesting added layer because Americans were traveling across the sea to fight the war so it felt especially useless since it did not even really protect America. As York leaves home, reassuring his family he will return, one cannot help but think of all the men who made that same promise and never came back. Furthermore, York’s religious views are certainly anti war, especially his epiphany as in the beginning of the film he participates in a fist fight over nothing serious(which can be seen as a microcosm for the lack of purpose in the war), but then completely changes his ways even forgiving the men who swindled him. However, there are more subtle pro war themes as a result of production choices. All of the soldiers in the film look like men; the casting does not accurately represent how young many of the men were. Other pro-war elements in the film include how little of the film is actually dedicated to York in battle, very few graphic deaths, and the portrayal of York’s awards after fighting. The movie’s idealized ending most likely contributed to the increased enlistment as Sergeant York is not injured and does not exhibit any severe traumatic effects from the war as the government rewards his actions with the land, which was his lifelong dream, as the movie ends with York and his fiancee preparing for their new life. In some respects it is sweet and enjoyable, but ultimately it is not realistic and could be extremely damaging for a questioning young man to see as it would encourage him to go to war. The movie is a bit lengthy, but is worth the watch for anyone interested in movies based on true stories. 

Works Cited

“Sergeant York.” (1941) – Turner Classic Movies, Turner Classics, 2022, 

For some more information on conscientious objectors in the Great War, check out this article!


Arden’s Review of Fly Boys (2006)

Fly Boys was released in 2006 and it was inspired by the true events and stories of the first fighter pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille, a French Air Service unit. The movie took place in the year 1916 before America decided to join in the war. Despite America not being officially involved, there were some Americans who volunteered to fight. The movie followed a group of these volunteers as they learn how to fly and survive.

            Character arcs and development were one of the areas that the film did an exceptional job in. After a brief summary as to what the story of the film will be focusing on, and its significance, the main cast of characters: Blaine Rawlings (James Franco), Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), William Jensen (Philip Winchester), Eddie Beagle (David Ellison), and Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine), were introduced. Each of their reasons for joining the Lafayette Escadrille was explored as the movie progressed as well as how it influenced their individual conflicts. There were other pilots who volunteered as well, but the movie used them as plot devices to further the growth of the main cast by having their deaths reveal the brutality and harsh reality of war. That being said, even though the film does take the time to follow the individual characters of the main cast, Blaine Rawlings was most portrayed to be the protagonist. As someone who had no family and was a loner, Rawlings found camaraderie amongst his other pilots and rose up as a leader as well as found love. Found family, leadership role, and a love interest are typical for the main character. The other members of the main cast had to deal with finding the courage to uphold a military tradition (Jensen), being viewed and treated as an equal (Skinner), an estranged relationship with their father (Lowry), and being honest about their past and learning how to shoot (Beagle). The movie does a good job of showing how these characters struggled and overcame these conflicts as well as giving a conclusion to their arcs.

            The cinematography for the movie was outstanding. There was the employment of various kinds of shots, such as tracking, pan, establishing, wide, medium, and close-up, paired up with jump cuts, fades, and J-cuts that kept the visual storytelling of the film from becoming bland or repetitive. The most impressive shots of the film were the aerial ones and the POV shots as the pilots fired at enemy planes. This created a thrilling immersive experience. With the use of the sound design, the moods that the scenes were trying to convey were given emphasis. Even though there were a few places where the transitioning between scenes was a bit awkward, overall, the story flowed well.

            My major concern with Fly Boys was how much of it was historically accurate. There were scenes such as the dogfights, the romance between Lucienne and Rawlings, and the final battle with the Black Falcon that I felt may have been over-dramatized or exaggerated. Each aerial fight had explosions and/or daring saves just in the nick of time. As for Lucienne and Rawlings, their scenes together were mostly clichés for a love story with comedic misunderstandings and a rescue to go with it. For a fictitious action movie this would work well, but for a war movie based on a true story not so much. While looking for information on the film, I learned there were other inaccuracies such as the wrong technology for the time (i.e., the plane models) and outdated period clothing. I think those who made the movie were more concerned with making the movie as cinematic as they could instead of telling the story of these pilots.

            Overall, I found the film Fly Boys entertaining. The cinematography and the character writing helped tell a compelling story and made the movie engaging. Despite the historical inaccuracies, I think Fly Boys was definitely worth the watch. However, if they ever do decide to remake Fly Boys or make another movie based on those who served in the Layfette Escadrille, then I hope that the director and producer stay truer to the story and be more aware of historical details.

Laura Baldwin’s Review of A Journey’s End (2017)

The 2017 film A Journey’s End (dir. Saul Dibb), one of many film adaptations of R.C. Sherriff’s 1928 play, stars Sam Clafin, Asa Butterfield, and Paul Bettany as soldiers on the front line of the Great War in the final year of the war. In the film, a young man, Jimmy Raleigh (Butterfield), joins the front for the first time in spring 1918 as the British are anticipating an offensive attack from the Germans. He requests to be put into a company with his friend from school, Stanhope (Clafin), even though the company’s position is more dangerous than his original appointment. While at the front, Raleigh befriends Lieutenant Osborne (Bettany) and finds out that Stanhope has been changed by the war.

When one thinks of war movies, they may think of an action-packed combat film, often with a heroic figure. A Journey’s End is not that kind of film. A Journey’s End takes place over just a few days and primarily deals with the dreadful waiting for a German offensive. There are only two combat scenes, each of which focuses on fear, the brutality of war, and loss of life. The story conveys the trauma of soldiers. Raleigh, who arrives bright and enthusiastic, is overtaken by fear in conflict and, after experiencing the death of someone close to him, is left feeling empty and angry. Stanhope, who is practically unrecognizable to Raleigh, turns to alcohol to cope with his fear and nightmares. In one scene, between Stanhope and a soldier who desperately wants to be sent out due to injury or else desert, Stanhope shares that they all feel the same anxiety, terror, and suicidal thoughts, but must stick through it anyway and continue fighting. In one scene, Stanhope has nightmare, which is depicted using a seamless transition from him rolling over in bed. At first, he is backlit by something extremely bright, possibly fire from an explosion, that the audience cannot see. In the next shot, the camera faces Stanhope as he stares into the bright light, which has a buzzing sound, then cuts to black. The audience is still not privy to what, exactly, he sees or what it means to him—perhaps it is a memory of something in the past or something he fears could happen in the future, when the Germans attack—but the audience can tell that it is unnerving. Rather than the action of warfare, A Journey’s End focuses on the human element of war through the trauma, fear, emotional defeat of soldiers.

The setting of A Journey’s End appears to accurately reflect the reality of life in the trenches. The trenches are muddy, wet, and smelly—even reinforced with bodies of the dead—and the food is bad. The soldiers spend most of their time just waiting around for conflict to erupt, another defining aspect of trench life. The film also emphasizes the physical destruction of war. A heap of bricks is all that is left of a farm, splintered trees are all that is left of the woods, and, at the end, a zooming out bird’s-eye view reveals the death and destruction of the trench and its surrounding environment.

Dibb utilizes several techniques to illustrate the tension and passing of time at the front. He uses orchestral non-diegetic music to contrubute to the feelings of tension and anxiety while waiting for the German offensive. Additionally, he uses on-screen text to segment each passing day throughout the film, emphasizing the passage of time. On-screen text also provides background information about the war. The film concludes with on-screen text that states facts about the German offensive, including how over a million people would die at war in 1918 alone before the war finally ended. The use of informational text adds even more emotional weight to the film, reminding viewers that this was a real even with real casualties.

I was not sure what to expect from A Journey’s End, but I found it to be a raw, emotional expression of humanity and life in the trenches while anticipating almost certain death. Although the plot was predictable and depressing, the cast’s performances convey the incomprehensible loss of life in the Great War and the struggles felt by soldiers. I am curious about how it compares to the original play and other film adaptations. If anyone is interested in a somber depiction of life in the trenches, A Journey’s End tells a well-executed, moving story.

Sonia Joshi’s Review of The African Queen


Released in 1951, The African Queen stars Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Before the story was brought to life on the big screen, it started out as a novel of the same name by C.S. Forester. His novels were centered around stories of naval warfare, most notably during the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars (one of his other famous novels, The Good Shepherd, was adapted into a 2020 film called Greyhound starring Tom Hanks). However, Forester was arguably most famous for his 12-part Hornblower series, all of whose stories were based on real events during the Napoleonic Wars [2].

The film revolves around Rose Sayer (Hepburn), a British Missionary who has gone to Africa with her brother, Sam (Robert Morely) to bring Christianity to a village. However, deep into their residency, World War I begins, and a group of German soldiers raids the village and takes every local person prisoner. All this leads to the death of Rose’s brother, motivating her to try and go to safety with the help of boatman Charlie Allnut (Bogart). The majority of the conflict comes from the pair’s attempts to navigate the rough and wildlife-filled Ulanga River on the titular boat, so although there is a backdrop of war in the movie, it would not technically be considered a war film.

Impressively, about half of the film was shot on-location in Africa, with both Uganda and Congo serving as the backdrop. This covered most of the land scenes, as those were deemed the safest to film there, though several of the cast members fell ill, allegedly from drinking unsafe water. Anything on the river was shot at Isleworth Studios in Middlesex [3]. However, that does not in any way detract from the impressive set pieces and use of green-screen images. Of course, by today’s standards, the technology is quite outdated, but for 1951, the blending of added image and the actors in front of the green screen is quite smooth. All other effects appear to be practical, which is incredibly commendable considering there are shots that involve massive and wide-spread fires, explosions, and even a live leech.

Both Hepburn and Bogart give memorable performances, and help give their characters distinct personalities. Apparently, improvisation, particularly from Bogart, was encouraged during dialogue, which definitely helped contribute to Rose and Charlie’s entertaining cracks at each other and banter. Both actors also helped make their characters incredibly distinct. Everything about Rose, down to her posture and micro expressions, is buttoned-up, ladylike, and even judgmental at times. Meanwhile, Bogart swings his arms wildly, speaks loudly, and almost always wears an overly-enthusiastic smile, perfectly encapsulating Charlie’s carefree nature. While The African Queen‘s other actors are good as well, none of them are in the movie long enough to make a fully sound judgement on their abilities as actors.

However, all of this doesn’t mean the film isn’t a product of its time. Primarily, the issue of gender roles stands out. Although Rose sometimes demonstrates that she’s both smart and strong, she often falls into a damsel in distress role, screaming and begging for Charlie’s help to get her out of an unpleasant situation. Despite that, her character is fun and, as previously mentioned, proves quite useful throughout the movie.

Overall, The African Queen is an entertaining watch. It’s packed with action, with one thing happening after the other, witty dialogue, and even a bit of endearing romance. If you’ve got 100 minutes and want something exciting to watch, it’s definitely worth the time.

[1] Image from https://www.amazon.com/African-Queen-Katharine-Hepburn/dp/B002TOL4QO

[2] To see more about Forester’s works, https://www.britannica.com/biography/C-S-Forester

[3] For more information, see https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-African-Queen-film-1951

Bonnie Akkerman’s review of “Paths of Glory” (1957)

           The film Paths of Glory is based on a 1935 book by Humphrey Cobb. Cobb (1899-1944) an Italian-born, Canadian-American screenwriter and novelist had served in the World War I Canadian army at the age of 17. Cobb kept a wartime diary and utilized his recollections when writing Paths of Glory.[1] His disgust and disillusion are heavily reflected in the work. The title of the novel comes from Thomas Gray’s 1751 poem Elegy Written in a Country ChurchyardPaths of Glory is based on the Souain corporal’s affair that occurred on March 17, 1915. The choice to set the novel within the French army was purposefully done by Cobb as he felt they had been “poorly led” by commanders and were needlessly slaughtered in futile quests for small patches of territory.[2] The “ant-hill” mentioned in the film is called “the pimple” in the novel.

Kirk Douglas gives a stellar performance in the 1957 film as Colonel Dax. Stanley Kubrick, who would go on to become an acclaimed director of such films as “The Shining”, directs. Douglas’ 1988 bestselling autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, tells how he felt so moved by Cobb’s book that he provided thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to support the project. Kubrick, Jim Thompson, and Calder Willingham were all screenwriters working on the project which re-wrote the character of Colonel Dax with Douglas in mind. The novel has Dax as a minor character that equivocates in his support of the men but the film does not.  The novel also includes Colonel Etienne, who is the legal representative for the accused. Kubrick’s script eliminates him entirely. Another interesting fact is that Kubrick and his writers instigated further changes that had the film ending happily. The “happy-ending” script was vehemently rejected by Kirk Douglas which caused conflict with Kubrick. Douglas is said to have yelled: “I got the money based on the original script. Not this shit. We’re going to do the original script or we’re not making the picture.”[3] Douglas’ determination to portray the harsh reality of an injustice pays off in the emotionally charged finale which evokes tremendous empathy.

            Adolf Menjou, the actor who plays General Broulard, was himself a World War I veteran and had misgivings about portraying the effete officer. George Macready, playing the part of the sinister General Mireau, actually had a severe facial scar from an automobile accident while still in college. Macready’s badly damaged face was stitched  by the only available medical practitioner, a veterinarian. The only female actress in the film is Christiane Harlan, a German singer and dancer who later became the third wife of Stanley Kubrick. They remained married for 40 years until his death in 1999.

            The film was shot in Munich in just 64 days and cost less than one million dollars to make. The choice to shoot this film in black and white enhances the main themes of despair and desolation. Paths of Glory was released in October of 1957 and enjoyed only moderate success in the United States. The most interesting thing about this film is its enduring message. The film has become a classic in its depiction of the ineptitude of French high command and the sacrifice enlisted men were expected to make without question. The mutinies of French soldiers in May of 1917 after the disastrous Nivelle Offensive are an example of the average soldier’s response to the incompetent military bureaucracy that was French high command. The film would be almost comical if it were not historically accurate. Instead Paths of Glory is heartbreaking.

                                                            Works Cited

Cobb, Humphrey. Paths of Glory. London, Penguin, 2011.


[1] Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory (New York: The Penguin Group, 2010), xxv.

[2] Cobb, Paths of Glory, xx.

[3] https://www.military-history.org/articles/war-on-film-paths-of-glory.htm

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