#372. Few actors, many roles

For the most part, each individual who acts in a movie only has one character to play. To understand the amount of emotional depth of a single character, these actors will often devote themselves to this singular role. But what about those actors who portray more than one character? Furthermore, what if the whole cast needs to take on multiple roles? There could be many reasons to go this way, including funding limitations, comedic purposes, or thematic motifs. Whatever the reason, when a few actors take on multiple roles in a movie, it can either be a distraction or a fun treasure hunt as the viewer tries to identify all the roles these actors filled. This is even more pronounced when famous and well-known actors are taking on these multiple roles. This week’s two films highlight some examples of a few actors taking on many roles.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 172 minutes / 2.87 hours

When it comes to a specific character who is seen during different parts of their life, the standard way to show this growth is via different actors playing the same character. This has been done in many movies, including the 2016 Best Picture, Moonlight. Sometimes, a single actor may play the same character throughout the lifecycle, like Brad Pitt did in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). However, when it comes to portraying the same character archetype over centuries, the same actor can be employed to show the link between the timelines. During the silent era, Buster Keaton did this in Three Ages (1923), mostly because he was the star of the film. In a more modern context, Cloud Atlas (2012) chooses to use the same set of all-star actors in multiple roles throughout multiple timelines as an artistic technique to show the interconnectedness of the characters.

While most of the members of the ensemble cast of Cloud Atlas only have one segment where they’re the lead character, they do appear in most segments. The timeline starts with Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), an abolitionist from 1849 who wrote a journal during his near-death experience. Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) read this journal while composing “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” for the elderly Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) found this piece of music in a record store in 1973 before surviving an assassination attempt due to the exposé she was writing. Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) would eventually read the novelization of these events in 2012, which would inspire him to write his own story. Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) would be inspired by the movie version of this book in 2144, starting a revolution in the process. Finally, Zachry (Tom Hanks) lives in a post-apocalyptic 2321 created by the revolution.

Life of BrianLife of Brian
Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.57 hours

Years after I saw Dr. Strangelove (1964), I came to the realization that three different characters in the film were portrayed by Peter Sellers. The acting was so superb, I hadn’t even noticed they were all the same actor. In general, comedies are more likely to use a small group of actors in multiple roles, especially if they’re known for short comedy sketches on television. Sure, you can have a small set of actors portray multiple characters through their voices, like in The Simpsons Movie (2007), but when it comes to live-action films, the guys from Monty Python are the de facto comedy group when it comes to multiple roles for individual actors. This is likely due to their success in the realm of sketch comedy. Even though there is a narrative thread that runs through movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Life of Brian (1979), they’re essentially just a series of sketches.

Living life in parallel to that of Jesus Christ (Kenneth Colley), Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was born just one door down from the stable where Jesus was born. Years later, he would attend the Sermon on the Mount and become inspired to join the People’s Front of Judea to stand up against the Romans’ rule. Through his exploits, he tries to blend into a crowd by pretending to be a prophet, repeating some of Jesus’ teachings in his own words. This leads to Brian developing a devoted following which eventually takes everything he says as a lesson or parable. Even random events are seen as miracles in their eyes. After finally escaping his following, he is captured by Roman guards and brought before Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin). Pilate offers to release a prisoner, and Brian’s name is offered, but someone else claiming to be him is released while he is crucified.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 many roles with not as many actors

#371. Stories through Time

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is partly due to those people who don’t learn from history and are therefore doomed to repeat it. While most movies usually span a short timeframe, there are a few out there that manage to cover almost the entirety of human existence. Some even go so far as to speculate what the future would bring for humanity. After all, if humans keep making the same decisions and mistakes in the past, what could possibly change that habit in the future? These parallel storylines are often used to prove some point to the audience. While it can be interesting to see how people in ancient times acted in the same way we do, sometimes the message the filmmaker is trying to make is beaten home too much. This week’s two films use multiple stories throughout time to tell a story.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

In telling multiple stories that span a long time period, each individual story is practically a short film in itself. The epic scale of the run-time for these films is merely a product of the multitude of stories that need to be told. During the early days of movies, short films were the norm, so stringing four of them together to tell a larger narrative was certainly doable. D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) manages to span a timeframe from 539 BC all the way to 1914 AD, stopping off around 27 AD and 1572 AD in the process. This film was so impactful, not only as a form of apology for The Birth of a Nation (1915) but for inspiring at least one parody: Buster Keaton’s Three Ages (1923). Both films highlight the fact that humans have remained the same for a very long time.

Throughout the ages, intolerance has been a problem for humanity. The similarities between Cyrus the Great of Persia (George Siegmann), the Pharisees of Israel, and the Catholics of France all show how being intolerant of others leads to great destruction, pain, and death. Sometimes, the people being affected by the intolerance have their own intolerance against their persecutors, with a few notable exceptions. Even in modern times, money fuels the prejudice between businessmen and the workers they exploit. In the end, this intolerance isn’t necessarily based on the color of one’s skin, but instead on how one group of people has a prejudice against a different group of people who might threaten the wealth and power they’ve grown used to over the years. Aside from the obvious lesson that intolerance has been around for a long time, we also see that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 172 minutes / 2.87 hours

While Intolerance covered about 2.5 centuries of stories, some modern films have gone from the beginning of time to the present day. The Tree of Life (2011) didn’t have nearly as many stories to tell, but the range was much greater. In contrast, Cloud Atlas (2012) only covers just over 450 years. However, Cloud Atlas examines the future as well via its parallel stories. While other movies that cover long timespans in short chunks will use the collective history lesson to sell a moral, Cloud Atlas speculates what the distant future will be based on what we know about human behavior. More to the point, Cloud Atlas shows us how individuals can span centuries in various forms, sometimes taking the spotlight or sometimes acting in a supporting role. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, I think we can all agree humans have the same basic thought processes that affect global history.

Actions have consequences, even if they’re not immediately apparent. Individuals who support the abolition of slavery in 1849 could affect the post-apocalyptic world of Hawaii in 2311. For instance, the 1849 journal of Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) could influence Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who gains credit for “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” via blackmail. This piece of music could influence Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), a journalist in 1973 San Francisco who escapes an assassination attempt after uncovering a nuclear conspiracy. Rey’s life could be novelized and read by Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who is accidentally committed to an asylum. Cavendish’s memoir could be turned into a movie that helps shape the revolution of the human clone known as Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) in 2144 Seoul. This revolution leads to Zachry (Tom Hanks) and his tribal people worshipping Sonmi-451 in 2331.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 timeless tales

#370. D.W. Griffith

Some directors may have been prolific, but then there are directors like D.W. Griffith. In the 23 years of his career, he directed over 500 movies. Most of these films were directed before 1914, as Griffith made the newfound medium of filmmaking his playground to discover and cement many of the film techniques we know today. It’s weird to think the close-up shot wasn’t widely used before Griffith made it a standard. It is also interesting to note that Griffith worked almost exclusively in the medium of silent films. Of his 518 movies, only two were with sound: Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931). These were the last two films he ever directed. With a catalog of movies this large, there are bound to be a few gems. This week’s two films highlight some of the most significant films D.W. Griffith ever directed.

The Birth of a NationThe Birth of a Nation
Year: 1915
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

Partly because the length of a reel of film was a technical limitation, many directors of the silent era made their movies on a single reel of film. At a length of 1,000 feet, silent movies could fit about 15 minutes of footage on a single reel. Longer movies would often advertise their run-time in terms of reels. With so many short films in circulation, it was a little odd to find D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) was comprised of a whopping 12 reels. Even modern movies rarely break a three-hour run-time, but this silent spectacle certainly does. With movies like this, D.W. Griffith ushered in the era of the “feature-length” movie. He showed how much could be done in 12 reels of film, not only in terms of plot but also in terms of the creative and artistic methods used to tell a story of this length.

The Camerons of South Carolina enlist to fight the Civil War and soon find that Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is the only surviving son of his two brothers. His headstrong attitude caused him to lead a charge at a major battle and earned him a nickname: “The Little Colonel.” Unfortunately, he is captured after being wounded in battle. While he is accused of treason by the Union and sentenced to hang, his mother asks Abraham Lincoln to pardon him and has her request granted. After Lincoln is assassinated, Ben finds the freed slaves of the South are using underhanded techniques to become elected officials. These former slaves don’t seem to know proper manners for governing individuals, which is why Ben tries to “scare” them into behaving by starting the ghost-themed Ku Klux Klan. Soon, order returns as the Klansmen ensure the slaves are no longer stuffing ballot boxes.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

If The Birth of a Nation was long, Griffith’s follow-up, Intolerance (1916) was even longer. Around 200 minutes long, this epic is actually four different stories told in parallel. Because of the backlash he received for the racially insensitive The Birth of a Nation, Griffith answered the only way he knew how: through film. He wanted to show intolerance in its many forms as a form of apology for glorifying the racist ideals of the Ku Klux Klan in his previous movie. Fortunately, this apology seemed to work, as he continued to direct many films after this point, including the classics Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921). Regarding his legacy, the American Film Institute originally put The Birth of a Nation on its Top 100 list in 1998, replacing it with Intolerance during the 10th Anniversary list. A fitting substitution, considering the original circumstances.

To show “Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages” (the subtitle for this film), Griffith follows four instances of intolerance across history. The oldest story is from the Babylonians, whose intolerance between different sects of followers of two different gods led to their demise. Even Jesus Christ (Howard Gaye) Himself experienced intolerance, the penultimate result of which was His eventual crucifixion. Centuries later, Catholics were intolerant of Protestants, which resulted in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Finally, in the modern times of 1914, the socially backward situation that leads to a man being sentenced to hang just for protecting his wife from the boss who put him in prison the first time. Most of these moments of intolerance end in tragedy. There is one story that does manage to pull out a happy ending, while still enforcing the huge influence intolerance has over people.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great D.W. Griffith movies

Bacon #: 3 (San Francisco / Roger Imhof -> Man Hunt / Roddy McDowall -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#369. Shameful Nations

We all have that one thing we’re ashamed of. Whether it’s a guilty pleasure, like enjoying a children’s television show, or something more sinister, like breaking the law, individuals will usually have something in their life they want everyone to forget. While many of these shameful things can be common for a large number of people, when a society forms around a group of people, there are inevitably individuals the group would rather outsiders just outright ignore. These individuals can bring shame to the entire group, either through their actions or by their strongly-held beliefs. Unfortunately, because these anomalous individuals are often seen representing the whole group, shame is brought to everyone. This can be scaled up from something as small as a workplace, to as large as a nation. This week’s two films highlight shameful nations and the individuals and groups who formed them.

ScarfaceScarface
Year: 1932
Rating: Passed
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Crime doesn’t pay, but when criminals become popular, there’s a bigger problem with society. If people don’t feel remorse for their crimes, and if they’re lauded for standing up to a system keeping them down, then the laws that hold everything together will have a difficult time supporting a civilized nation. While criminals can be part of larger organizations, the famous mobsters of the 1920s were personalities who often made headlines all by themselves. Individuals like Al Capone, Frank Costello, and Carlo Gambino made the police and law enforcement of America look foolish by breaking numerous laws and getting away with it. In shaming the legal system, these individuals in turn shame the entire nation these laws were enacted to protect. And yet, these gangsters provide entertainment via their hijinks.

Loosely based on the real-life gangster, Al Capone, Antonio “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni) is inspired by the sign outside his apartment which states, “The World is Yours.” Working underneath Italian mob boss John “Johnny” Lovo (Osgood Perkins), Tony is helping the Italians take over the south side of Chicago. Of course, just being a lackey isn’t enough for Tony. Not only does he start pursuing Johnny’s girlfriend, but he makes a move to take over the north side of Chicago from its Irish gangs. To aid in achieving his goals, his friend Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) helps Tony kill Johnny after a botched assassination on Tony’s life. However, when he learns his beloved sister is in a relationship with Guino, Tony goes insane and kills his friend, which inevitably results in the police coming in and taking Tony down.

The Birth of a NationThe Birth of a Nation
Year: 1915
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

While history is written by the victors, there can be embarrassing or shameful events in this history which are difficult to gloss over. Especially as time marches on and sentiments change, what was once condoned as appropriate behavior is condemned by future generations. These shameful events in a nation’s history cannot and should not be overlooked, lest the nation repeats them. For the United States, much changed in the wake of the Civil War, but the shameful veil of racism still seems to hold onto many of its residents more than a century later. Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan disgrace an entire nation that considers itself “enlightened.” Unfortunately, early Hollywood did not help with this, since films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) bolstered a rebirth of the KKK that still exists today.

The lives of a family from the North and a family from the South are intertwined during the Civil War. Both families send their sons to the front lines of war, but the daughters and wives end up working in the hospitals. When one of the Southern boys, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is captured and taken to a Union hospital, he is stricken with the daughter of the Northern family. Similarly, the eldest Northern son falls in love with one of the Southern daughters. When Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, everyone returns home and tries to rebuild. While the Northern family makes sure Reconstruction policies are enforced in the south, Ben Cameron observes the freed slaves abusing the government and not taking their responsibilities seriously. After starting the Ku Klux Klan, Ben manages to bring the freed slaves back in line and restore order to the southern governments.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 shame-filled societies

#368. Howard Hawks

It is rare to find a director who can direct across the spectrum of film genres. Often, a director’s style will dictate their genre. I mean, we’re not likely to see a horror film by Michael Bay. And while versatile directors like Christopher Nolan can span many genres, there are still a few outside their style. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Christopher Nolan comedy, as I’m sure it would be mind-bending and visually stunning. Steven Spielberg might be the one modern director who can successfully direct movies in any genre, but back when the film industry was just getting started, a few directors could “do it all.” One of these directors was none other than Howard Hawks. Back then, the ability to direct across all genres was likely more out of necessity than it was for resume padding. This week’s two films highlight some of Howard Hawk’s versatility as a director.

Sergeant YorkSergeant York
Year: 1941
Rating: Approved
Length: 134 minutes / 2.23 hours

Despite a large number of notable films, Howard Hawks never won an Oscar for Best Director during his career. He was nominated once for Sergeant York (1941), likely due to the peak of his career. In the lead up to the war movie that is Sergeant York (which itself was nominated for Best Picture), he directed two comedies, Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940), as well as the drama, Only Angels Have Wings (1940). Of course, he directed many other classics after Sergeant York, including the musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the western, Rio Bravo (1959), and the John Wayne adventure, Hatari! (1962). Hawks even managed to direct a sci-fi film with The Thing from Another World (1951), thus proving that he can direct pretty much any major genre that exists.

While Alvin York’s (Gary Cooper) hellion lifestyle has caused his mother much consternation, once he met Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), he started to turn his life around. Promising to marry her once he can obtain a farm, Alvin works relentlessly at raising the necessary money, only to have his hopes and dreams dashed when the offer is pulled out from underneath him. Before he can right the wrong, Alvin is struck by lightning and finds God in the process. Shortly afterward, Alvin is drafted into the Army for World War I, despite his newfound abhorrence to killing. However, in the heat of battle, Alvin realizes he must kill in order to save his comrades. Using his skill as a sharpshooter, Alvin saves the day and returns home a hero. After he turns down offers to cash in on his fame, he finds that his hometown bought the farm he was eyeing and gave it to him as a gift.

ScarfaceScarface
Year: 1932
Rating: Passed
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

What’s interesting about Howard Hawks, aside from the numerous genres he could direct, was that his career started back in the silent era. Being able to successfully transition from the realm of silent films to the “talkies” is no small feat, especially considering how many directors and actors from that time failed to adapt to the technology that was permanently changing the way audiences experienced movies. While he only directed seven silent films, they also shared the diversity in genre he kept up during his career (four comedies, one drama, one romance, and one film noir). When sound became available, it wasn’t long until Hawks was directing classics like the crime drama, Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932). In fact, this film was so well made, the 1983 remake was partially dedicated to Howard Hawks.

During the prohibition era in Chicago, Antonio “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni) is helping mob boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) to take control of the south side of the city. While Tony is an excellent lackey, he eventually goes against Johnny’s wishes and starts to take on the Irish gangs who control the north side of Chicago. As his success continues, Tony’s confidence rises enough to the point where he starts wooing Johnny’s girlfriend, Poppy (Karen Morley). Of course, with Tony’s out-of-control ambitions left unchecked, Johnny sends an assassin to kill him. Escaping the threat on his life, Tony and his friend Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) kill Johnny, making Tony the new leader of the mob. Unfortunately, when Tony learns Guino is with his sister, he kills his friend, setting off a series of events that has him hiding in his house and fighting the police. Will Tony live long enough to make the world his?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 highly-praised Howard Hawks classics

#367. War Heroes

In war, nobody wins. However, each side inevitably has those extraordinary people who went out of their way to show heroism in the face of the odds against them. These are the real winners of war: the war heroes. Often, it’s much easier to “run away to fight another day,” than it is to stand up to an enemy force. When individuals and groups of people go against that instinct, the most probable outcome is death. However, if these war heroes can cheat death, they can turn the tide of a battle, which itself could turn the tide of the war at large. Nobody ever sets out to become a war hero, but the character and determination ingrained within them before their moment of heroism is what leads them through to victory. This week’s two films highlight some unique individuals and the selfless actions they performed to become war heroes.

DunkirkDunkirk
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours

Heroism can come in many forms, but the crux of it boils down to saving lives. In war, we can often equate killing the enemy to saving the lives of our soldiers. After all, if there’s less of them to kill us, then we have therefore saved at least some of our troops. However, some of the more admirable heroes are those who save lives by not killing others. This attribute was best displayed in Hacksaw Ridge (2016), which took place on the battlefield. It can be difficult to save your fellow soldiers when the enemy is actively trying to kill you. And yet, even civilians can be war heroes. For example, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) from Schindler’s List (1993) was a civilian who saved many lives from the Holocaust associated with World War II. While Schindler wasn’t on the front lines, the civilians who assisted with the Dunkirk evacuation came very near to the active battlefield.

When over 400,000 soldiers found themselves pinned down on the beach at Dunkirk, many accepted their fate that they would die there. After all, the German forces were continuing to advance on their position, and everyone needed to wait to be evacuated. These soldiers were sitting ducks, waiting for the next sniper or bomber to take them out. To make matters worse, there are not enough military transports to get everyone to safety, and the ones that do exist are torpedoed and bombed from above. With no other options left, the British Navy conscripts a contingent of civilian vessels to travel across the English Channel to save these soldiers. These civilians head into battle with fishing ships and pleasure yachts, with nothing but a few Spitfires to cover them from above. Will they survive the round trip? Will they manage to save any soldiers in the process?

Sergeant YorkSergeant York
Year: 1941
Rating: Approved
Length: 134 minutes / 2.23 hours

Heroism often comes down to a single moment. When the situation is dire, and everything is falling apart around you, the “fight or flight” response kicks in. These situations frequently happen in war, but what an individual does in these moments can make the difference not only between heroism and cowardice but also life and death. Furthermore, these war heroes are the ones who not only save themselves via their actions but their brothers in arms as well. While some soldiers are conscientious objectors to war, being unwilling to kill another due to their beliefs, sometimes death is necessary to save lives. In fact, certain military professions, like the snipers seen in American Sniper (2014), are designed to kill the enemy to protect the troops fighting the war on the ground. Another famous sniper, who was also a conscientious objector was none other than Alvin York.

Alvin York (Gary Cooper) is not exemplary in many things. In fact, his frequent drinking and brawling worry his mother (Margaret Wycherly) to no end. This all changes when he falls in love with Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie). Not only does he clean up his act, but he sets out to raise enough money to buy a farm so he can marry her. As the financial deadline approaches, Alvin calls upon his one skill, marksmanship, to win a target-shooting contest, but fails to purchase the farm due to an underhanded deal on the part of the owner. Despondent, he heads out to kill this man, but has a Damascus road experience and finds God. Unfortunately, when World War I starts, Alvin is drafted as a sniper, which goes against his “no killing” beliefs. In a moment of peril, Alvin realizes his ability to kill the enemy will save his comrades, and he sets about to single-handedly turn the tide of battle.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 heroic feats

#366. World War II

Unlike the Anglo-Zanzibar War, World War II is likely to be the war with the most films featuring it as part of their plot. There are numerous reasons for this, including the rise of Hollywood during the same timeframe, as well as a distinct “good guy vs. bad guy” conflict. Unlike the Civil War, World War II was a recent enough conflict for there to be individuals who were affected by it. Furthermore, unlike the Vietnam War, World War II was a war popular with the public sentiment (even despite the unpopular idea of war in general). Consequently, of the multitude of World War II films, at least eight of them have won the Oscar for Best Picture, which doesn’t even include the numerous nominated films that covered the same subject. This week’s two films highlight some of the best World War II movies ever made.

Saving Private RyanSaving Private Ryan
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Length: 169 minutes / 2.82 hours

The effects of war can spread far from their source of origin. In a global conflict like WWII, there can be prisoners of war in Burma being held by the Japanese (like in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)) as well as in Germany (like in The Great Escape (1963)). Of course, the impact of a war is often felt on the home front as well. Soldiers have families back home and often have to work hard at reintegrating into a post-war society (like in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)). That’s assuming these soldiers even make it back at all. Some generals like Patton (1970) throw their empathy out the window when giving orders, especially if they produce results. However, there are also occasions when the leaders in charge realize a single soldier’s life is significant, especially if it means that soldier can return home to a family who has already lost so much.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sent a letter of condolence to Lydia Bixby after her five sons died fighting for the Union. To prevent this tragedy from happening again, General George Marshall (Harve Presnell) orders that James Ryan (Matt Damon), a soldier missing in action, is found and returned home safely. Ryan’s three brothers were also soldiers, each one of them confirmed dead by the end of D-Day. While it takes some time (and the lives of two men) to track Ryan down, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is reluctant to return empty-handed. Unfortunately, while Ryan’s biological brothers are dead, his brothers-in-arms are still alive and protecting a strategic bridge. Captain Miller reluctantly agrees to help defend the bridge with Ryan, which proves to be a daunting task as a German Panzer Division arrives to take back control. Will anyone survive to return home?

DunkirkDunkirk
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours

Just like war can affect those who are on the home front, the civilians left behind still have plenty of capability to resist the evil present in a global conflict like WWII. Sure, you might be a nun helping a family escape German-controlled Austria (like in The Sound of Music (1965)). You might even be a German industrialist saving the lives of many Jews from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories (like in Schindler’s List (1993)). Nevertheless, these little things add up to help defeat the enemy. While plenty of Europeans resisted the advancement of the Nazis, the Americans in Hawaii were completely taken by surprise (like in From Here to Eternity (1953)) but still did their part to win the war. Of course, when the war is in your backyard (like in Mrs. Miniver (1942)), it’s much easier to step up and help the war effort directly.

With the Germans advancing through France, allied troops gather at Dunkirk in the hopes of being evacuated. Unfortunately, there are not enough military transports to take hundreds of thousands of soldiers away from the French port. The soldiers who are trapped on the beach begin to realize there isn’t enough transportation and come up with ways to get on the boats that are leaving. Of course, as they are still in enemy territory, even these boats face torpedoes and aerial gunfire from German forces, sinking in the process. Meanwhile, across the English Channel, civilians are being conscripted to head over to Dunkirk and use their small boats to evacuate the soldiers. Overhead, Spitfire planes are engaged with the enemy to help pave the way for a safe return home. The tension of the situation remains high as each second ticks by, dwindling away the time left for people to escape.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 well-made WWII movies