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Big Red One, The: The Reconstruction (1980)

 

Not Juicy fruit
Big Red ONE...Not to be mistaken with Big Red GUM

Genre: Action War Drama

Starring: Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), Mark Hamill (Star Wars Batman: Mask of the Phantasm)

Directed By: Samuel Fuller (Pickup on South Street Shock Corridor)

Overview: A sergeant and his unit go from battle to battle trying to win and survive during the Second World War.

Performance:

Yeah, no shit, there he is, the guy you thought was only in Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, and nothing else. The Guyver doesn't count, that was just embarrassing. Mark Hammill A.K.A. Luke Skywalker, here right on the heels of The Empire Strikes Back and before Return of the Jedi, as Private Griff, and a fine job he does.  "Where is he now?" you might ask? He's actually not dead or doing car commercials and "Star Trek" conventions.  He's actually a successful voice actor. From 80s Animé to 90s "Batman" films and cartoons to today's Adult Swim, he's still in the game.  Lee Marvin, typecast as he may have been from The Dirty Dozen and other tough guy roles is actually the perfect Sergeant, and by far the best role of them all. I will admit though that with the sprinkling of familiar faces like Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds), there was a bittersweet aftertaste of the 'all too light' war film... remember Memphis Belle's cast? Just like that.
Rating: 8

Cinematography:

Well it's an action film, there's no denying that, and pretty sweet too. The fights are long and dramatic, and a good mid-point between 'bang, fall down, no blood' D-Day films like The Longest Day and the ultra gory Saving Private Ryan. There's no doubt how much The Big Red One's D-Day scene influenced Saving Private Ryan, but I also wouldn't say it did much in the way of earning a solid place in film history.
Rating: 8

Script:

You know how you smoke out a sniper? You send a guy out in the open and you see if he gets shot. They thought that one up at West Point.

There's a lot of comedy in this War epic, and friendly banter - maybe even amusing narration - is certainly a necessary element in something like this, but do it too often, add a couple conversations about 'murder versus killing' / morality of war that seem just a hint too trite and you end up with a film that wasn't as deep at it should have been. Yeah, I'd say that was the problem.      
Rating: 7

Plot:

I guess you could, essentially, call this a plotless film with the direction being the tides of war.  We begin with a scene marking the end of The Great War, then are introduced to the First Infantry Division, the Big Red ONE.  There's nothing wrong with a film whose plot is merely getting to the end of a war, with such battle locales as Africa, Sicily, Omaha Beach, Germany and Czechoslovakia.  Slice of life stories can be fantastic, especially if each scene has a little moral lesson, unique stories and a overarching theme.  This is one of those.
Rating: 7

Mood:

As I said in a post about yardstick films, there's movies that make strides in advancing technology or storytelling genres. I'd call The Big Red One more a 'baby steps' sort of War film. Many scenes are important, well shot and well researched, but I can't help getting over the shellacked veneer of 'all too cute, too often'. There are very few films where I'm so torn about the end result of the whole.  With this one, I simply compartmentalized it into 'good scenes that make the movie' and 'out of place fluffy comic scenes that kill the mood'.
Rating: 7

That's right! Little Luke Skywalker
That's right! Little Luke Skywalker ain't nuthin without his lightsaber

Overall Rating: 74% (Bigger and Redder Would Have Been Better)
Aftertaste:

In 1980, The Big Red One's final cut was taken over by producers, since the director's first rough cut was over 4 hours.  Genius is one thing, but seriously.  The 113-minute original cut had 45 minutes of footage added to it in The Reconstruction (2004), and though I never saw the theatrical version, I'm sure I can safely say this one is the less disjointed, better version, given the critics' approval.

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