The Longest Day (1962)



The Longest Day.  At times more like the longest segment of a film and come on, let’s get on with it.

Actually not really.  I was surprised at how quickly this film moved along.  Yes, it’s 3 hours long, but it’s engaging throughout.

This film looks at June 6, 1944 as the Allied forces invade France and begin their march to Berlin and ultimate end of the European theater in World War 2.  What makes this film unique is that it covers every angle imaginable, and does so in a way that doesn’t seem redundant and boring.  It may be more my own personal preference, but I enjoy films like this.

Realism is common theme I’ve seen in the films I’ve surprisingly enjoyed watching in this project.  I especially enjoyed how the filmmakers took on all sides and perspectives of this day.  Americans, British, French, and German soldiers are all represented, and all three directors do a great job of telling individual stories that contribute to the bigger story of the day.  I found myself speculating about if something had been done differently: if the Nazis had sent tanks to reinforce their troops would they have held their ground?  Would the Allies have made it to Berlin that much faster?  Things like those interest me.  But it wasn’t all glamorized: a battalion of paratroopers was slaughtered because they missed their landing zone, a group of engineers was left directionless because all their commanding officers were killed before they reached the shore.  I think it conveys they value of life and consequences of war that can get overlooked.

There was a scene at the end of the film where an American soldier that’s been followed through the whole movie admits that he hadn’t fired a single shot.  A wounded British soldier, who had previously shot a German commander, reflects on the state each of them is in: dead, wounded, scared, and how most war probably produces those results.  It seems like a reflection of the futility of war when one takes a step back and sees a broader picture.

There is a whole slew of big names.  However, the film leaps back and forth between a number of participants, and as a result none of them are really in a central significant role outside of their own group.  John Wayne probably comes closest to being a central figure, though his character doesn’t participate in the beach invasion.  Henry Fonda plays Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (The President’s son), and plays a commander in his 50s and using a cane in an endearing performance.  Sean Connery appears in two whole scenes, and speaks one line.  The Longest Day came out the same year as Dr. No.  Connery was in all likelihood on set for 1 day, 2 tops.  The thing that I appreciated is how they seemed to fit seamlessly into the story, and the events rise above the big names.  “The endless parade of stars makes for an astute mix of realism and Hollywood star-power.”

The Longest Day won 2 Oscars: Best Cinematography and Best Sound Effects.  The battle scenes, especially ones that continued and the cameras panned and followed a battle in a way that couldn’t have been edited together was fantastic.  While elements aren’t as realistic as more recent war films have portrayed, specifically when guys get shot, the overall feel and   I’m pretty sure I heard the same sound used for X-Wing blaster fire from Star Wars at one point.

If I were a history teacher, and I had the okay from the school, this is a film I would consider showing this, or at least parts of it, when discussing World War 2 and D-Day.  I appreciate and applaud the realism in this film.  I would watch it again, but only under the right circumstances.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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