It has been confirmed that UK forces are due to cease combat in Afghanistan by the end of December 2014 after fighting a 13 year long war. As the war starts to dissipate, there is an unshakeable feeling of frustration and resentment from some of the returning soldiers and the public alike. The war was originally billed as an aggressive response to the Taliban’s refusal to give up Osama Bin Laden following the 9/11 attack and a mission to reduce the production of Opium. Now Bin Laden has been killed and Opium production levels have increased since the start of the war but our troops are still there 13 years on and soldiers and civilians are still dying.
On Friday 7th February 2014, Tom Petch’s ‘The Patrol’, winner of Raindance Feature Film of the Festival in 2013, will be released in cinema. This film is a bold and truthful portrayal of the war that questions our continuing involvement in a conflict. From dissatisfaction with war policies, it is unsurprising that a new anti-war film has been created in response. As Petch states in his interview with Raindance, America defined the ‘Anti-War culture. He states: “if you look at their response to the Vietnam war, they defined public resistance to war” citing films like The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and Platoon to name but a few. Some war films take the stance of portraying patriotism and the heroics of war, while others draw attention to the horrors of war. War films in themselves, pro and anti, are a popular genre, with a huge fan following, from political activists to military culture junkies. Nevertheless, film-makers have are heavily involved in the response to wars fought throughout history. To mark the release of ‘The Patrol’ at the end of this week, here are our top 10 Anti-War films:
Voted Raindance Feature Film of the Festival for 2013, The Patrol could not be featuring on our cinema screens at a more significant time. Just a couple of months before British troops are due to return home from Afghanistan, the question on everyone’s mind is ‘was it worth it?’. Showing off fantastic shots as well as a brilliantly crafted script, Director and Writer of The Patrol Tom Petch brings us a snapshot of life as a soldier in Afghanistan. Having served himself in Bosnia, Croatia and in the Special Forces, Petch’s portrayal of the war brings into question the organisation and the resources British soldiers worked with in Afghanistan from a starkly real perspective and from his own experiences. The film authentically portrays the life as a soldier by drawing upon Petch’s knowledge of the war down to the finest detail.
2) Apocalypse Now (1979)
Ok I know this is an obvious choice, but you cannot get away from the Anti-War message of Apocalypse Now. Directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola and is based on Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness. The film is a re imagining of Conrad’s book; originally set in the African congo, the film converts this to the war in Vietnam where Special Operations veteran Benjamin L.Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent to kill Colonel Walter E.Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone insane. The film does not depict the war on the battlefield as much as it depicts the war in the human soul.
3) The Battle of Algiers (1966)
A favourite of Mr Petch’s, the film was described by Lord Putnam as one of the only films to change public perception. The film focuses on the occurrences during the Algerian War against the French Government in North Africa from 1954-62. The film is applauded for its commentary on Guerilla Warfare and was banned in France for five years until its re-release in 1974.
4) Full Metal Jacket (1987)
From the father of anti-war films, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ portrays the brutality of war shown through the eyes of the Skirmish. A common critique of this film is that the latter half of the film lacks purpose and direction (which I would have to agree with) but has nevertheless made the list as one of the few war films that show the hard and sometimes brutal life of a trainee soldier
5) The Deer Hunter (1978)
Like The Godfather meets Platoon, The Deer Hunter is a classic portrayal of the American disillusionment with the Vietnam war. With legendary performances from Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken and with scenes that have set cinema history, The Deer Hunter was billed as a daring and refreshingly original take on the Vietnam war. Director Michael Cimino who won the Academy Award for Best Director, had previously trained in the army during the time of the Vietnam war but never saw combat.
6) The Thin Red Line (1998)
Whilst the cast and crew did not serve in the war, James Jones, the author of The Thin Red Line novel that the eponymous film is based on, served in the 25th Infantry Division, 27th Infantry Regiment during World War II. The novel and film are based on a fictionalized version of the Battle of Mount Austen which was part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in World War II.
7) Platoon (1986)
Another personal favourite of Director Tom Petch as Oliver Stone served in an infantry unit in Vietnam and this is brilliantly portrayed in the film. The characters in the film are semi-autobiographical, based on army personnel Stone worked alongside during his time in Vietnam. To make the film as authentic as possible, the film was shot in Vietnam and the actors underwent two weeks intensive training to prepare for their roles including digging Foxholes and being ambushed using special effects. Stone claims that this was to help replicate the frustration, anger and growing indifference to death that came part and parcel with the war.
8) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A Spielberg classic that was awarded 11 academy awards including Spielberg’s second Academy Award for Best Director. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy and battle in New Guinea, three brothers lie dead from battle. After learning that the fourth brother is missing in France, the Army Chief of Staff orders a rescue mission to find the young soldier and return him safely home. This Anti-War film in particular has been noted by military personnel as being one of the most realistic out there, in particular, the battle scenes are heralded as being soberingly accurate. It is safe to say that the 11 academy awards were well deserved!
9) In the Valley of Elah
This is a very understated war film, a personal favourite of mine, which seems to always go under the radar in the Anti-War film genre. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon and takes place away from the battlefield and back on American soil. Starting as what seems to be a murder mystery, Hank Deerfield (Jones) a hardened patriotic, searches for their son Mike who has gone missing after returning home from Iraq. I could not go on to reveal what happens as that would be a spoiler, but the conclusion is sobering. Far away from the battlefield, the film deals with the trauma experienced by soldiers once they have returned home. I implore you to watch it.
10) Paths of Glory (1957)
This classic takes us back to the Western Front in the First World War, when a planned attack fails, the Generals looks for scapegoats to face the firing line. Another Kubrick classic (who was only 29 when the made this film), based on Humphrey Cobb’s novel of the same name, Paths of Glory earned Kubrick much critical acclaim whilst stirring up controversy for its portrayal of the French army. The film Starring Kirk Douglas who, like a lot of his fellow actors of that era, served in World War II in the US Navy