A Classic - Easily The Finest Battle Oriented Epic Ever Made
Private Quentin Tarantino Fan | nowhere | 08/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Longest Day is easily one of the finest epic movies ever made, probably the best epic war film ever made (well, one that focuses on battles), and easily outclasses all other old fashioned war movies. One heck of a picture, the film is still stunning today, thanks to amazing cinematography, detail, and a balanced look between the men and the massive battle (though there's a substantial more of the latter). The sixties and seventies created some great epic films, many of them war films that stand out even today. The decades also produced some stinkers including the Battle of the Bulge, but this is easily the most memorable and best of the lot, given the high amount of great war movies made during that time.
Like Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Longest Day makes a very important monumental battle get it's justice, as producer Darryl F. Zanuck and company portray one of the most important battles in history from all major sides with great detail, highlighting and recreating this massive day with four directors (all in their own native languages), an all star cast of forty eight major roles (including Wayne, Burton, Connery, Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Fonda), and over 23,000 extras. Almost split into three hours each, the film covers various aspects of the landing process and decisions, then focuses on the airborne and ground landings, respectfully. There's hardly any parts that will bore you in this film.
One thing I noticed about this film is that it's absolutely gorgeous piece of film making. Really! Shooting the film in grim black and white gives it a newsreel vintage look (and film is actually interjected with REAL newsreel footage), and I wouldn't have the film any other way. Using color would only diminish the film's impact. The staggering cinematography captures the sweeping battle sequences, grim imagery and images galor, and the period look of WW2 is intact here. Deep focus captures scenery with depth and vast beauty + grimness, and the battle is captured with an organized, visually compelling way, but never feels too static and deliberately made. Hats off for the great special effects lending an air for an authentic movie experience, and the cinematography too. Both aspects won Oscars.
The Longest Day, unlike other older war movies, never feels like propaganda, for the most part, it just shows the battle. Yeah, a little bit of color and emotion is put into the film's style, but there's a refreshing lack of musical cues and other such crap telling US (no, not U.S.) how to feel about the war. And it certainly isn't pro-war either. Anybody who watches this thinking war is cool has to be high out of their minds. It's true that the film is somewhat sanitized in the violence/intensity department compared to other films, but there's still a great emotional context, and you won't be sitting there bored out of your mind. The score sometimes highlights the good in the soldiers, but it didn't bother me. It's not a crime, and I'm sure some people can understand the concept of having some sort of respect for the people who fight these wars.
Don't be deceived by the G rating or the fact that this film was made in 1962, the recreations of the actual battles themselves are quite stunning. While it lacks the brutality of later war films (especially movies post SPR), it's depiction of the battles are stunning, non glamorous, and completely believable and scary; soldiers fall realistically and there's tension and chaos within these scenes. I was really impressed, actually, by the way that sound design didn't get in the way. Despite some obviously dated explosions sounds and bullet sounds, I felt the battles themselves were completely the opposite of tinny, they are very effective and also manage not to glorify what they are doing. And hey, in my opinion, the depiction of the paratrooper planes is better here than in Band of Brothers. Really!
Regarding the comparisons between Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day, don't be fooled too much by other people comparing the two. In my opinion, the only thing these two films have in common are the Omaha Beach landings, and both are set during Normandy. Even then the latter similarity is different: Ryan ignores all of the other portions of Normandy, and the rest of the film starts three days after June 6th (after a sequence starting the story of saving Ryan, that is). Furthermore, The Longest Day actually shows Omaha Beach more accurately, it shows that it took almost a whole day to clear the beach. Ryan is a much more personal story as well, while The Longest Day focuses on the battle itself, it's essentialy about D-Day, the Sixth of June ONLY. I personally love both of the films, but please keep in mind, despite what others may think, the two films really don't have much in common with each other besides loose source material.
Either way though, The Longest Day is easily Hollywood's finest old school war epic. Tora! Tora! Tora! and A Bridge Too Far come close, but none of them come close as much as this film does. Easily the best of the lot. They sure don't make em' like they use to. Just ask Michael Bay."