Saints & Soldiers – Ardennes/Battle of the Bulge – Based on Historical Events – Story of 4 U.S. GI’s whose unit surrenders when cut off on the very first day or two of the German Offensive, but who then escape – in their efforts to elude the Germans and get back to friendly lines they encounter a shot down British reconnaissance pilot, who got a glimpse of the size of the German forces that were advancing before the weather closed in – he is desperate to get back to an HQ somewhere to report as no one may realise how large this attack is, etc… The G.I.’s agree to help him and with just 1 German 98K Rifle with a few bullets and the RAF Pilot’s Revolver (and little food) they strike out for the closest U.S. unit.
I really enjoyed this film – on Blu-ray Picture Quality is Superb (1.85:1 AR at 1080p – presumably 24Hz) and Audio (DTS-HD 5.1) is excellent also. It is very much in the vein of SPR & BoB for detail and style (authentic uniforms/equipment, slightly washed out 1940’s colours, etc). While there are not as many full on action or battle scenes as the former 2 titles, there are a couple of them and several smaller actions… A great movie for atmosphere and inspiration – especially if you are into the Battle of the Bulge or the Winter fighting in NWE… Blu-ray.com Review.
Max Manus: Man Of War – Norway – Story of the heroes of the Norwegian Resistance – based on real people and events covers the war of Max Manus who was possibly Norway’s top saboteur/espionage agent (he fought in the Finnish Winter War as a volunteer, then escaped to England after the Nazi’s took over Norway, then participated in numerous raids and sabotage actions travelling back and forth between Norway & Sweden/England several times), and the story of his friends/associates in the resistance in Norway (many of who became decorated National Heroes). Max Manus wrote accounts of the war in later life and this movie appears to be essentially based on some of the key events in the books and/or that he was involved in… It’s in Norwegian for about 2/3 of the dialogue so requires subtitles (balance of dialogue is English). Another excellent atmosphere movie that looks very authentic. Again PQ on Blu-ray is fantastic (2.40:1 AR at 1080i/50Hz) as is AQ (Dolby TrueHD 5.1) – there are some recurring scenes in the Russo-Finish Winter War with a Maxim MG and artillery explosions (a prolonged segment opens the movie) that really get the bass and stuff going. But don’t be misled – this is not a shoot ‘em up action/combat movie like SPR or BoB – like BoB it puts a lot of focus on the relationships between the key characters, and a lot of it relates to the ‘sneaking around’ and such of the resistance. There are however several small scale combat scenes of resistance fighters shooting it out with the Germans & Police, and commando style actions planting limpet mines and such… Again a very period authentic looking movie, both clothes, weapons, and the back drops… Max Manus died about 1996 at the age of 80 or so… Blu-ray.com Review.
Two other highly recommended titles I have picked up but not yet viewed are:
Days of Glory – Story of four Algerian Arab young men who sign up to fight for their Fatherland (France) after France join the Allies (about 130,000 Algerians/Moroccans/Tunisians did IRL) – they campaign through Tunisia/Italy to Provence in France, then culminate in fighting a heroic last stand in Alsace after they are left with no support. This is apparently base don true stories of the Arab soldiers who fought for France and faced constant discrimination and poor treatment by the French they were fighting for/protecting… Reportedly it was highly regarded in the film festival circuit and got some high quality reviews. The Blu-ray transfer is 2.35:1 AR at 1080p (so like S&S above presumably 24Hz), however audio is only DTS 5.1 – a bit disappointing for a High-Def release but by all accounts still a reasonable quality. I am looking forward to watching this one – both the Video PQ and the movie itself rate highly with reviewers. French with English Subtitles. Blu-ray.com Review.
Assembly – The sole survivor of a unit of PLA troops fighting the KMT in China at the turning point of the civil war in 1948 relives the final climactic battle of his unit, where he believes he is the sole survivor. His men claimed to have heard the assembly bugle call to retreat but he refuses to allow them to and so they fight a battle against huge numbers in which only he survives – after his rehabilitation and the end of the civil war he goes back to try and recover his men’s bodies… Again this movie rated very highly at festivals and with some reviewers, but as usual with films out of China you can never be sure now much is propaganda, and how much is a distorted to suit political agendas. For example the reviewer at blu-ray.com points out that while it is visually a very good film and story, there appears to some to be lots of subtle political messages embedded in much of the non-battle dialogue… However that said I look forward to watching this one soon also (note: I imported my copy from Hong Kong, i.e. the Chinese version, rather than purchasing from the UK through Amazon, as the Chinese version has a marginally better quality transfer onto blu-ray). The Picture is 2.35:1 AR at 1080p for the Chinese version and only 1080i for the UK version – however as the Chinese one is probably at 1080p/24Hz vs. the UK’s 1080i/50Hz they work out about the same in theory, although progressive is always going to look a bit better regardless). The sound track is DTS-HD MA 5.1 in Mandarin Chinese, so use of subtitles is a requirement again for most of us… Blu-ray.com Review [Chinese Release] & Blu-ray.com Review [UK Release].
Author: John Moher.