Sergeant York (1941)
Genre: War Drama
Starring: Gary Cooper (High Noon; Mr. Deeds Goes To Town), Joan Leslie (High Sierra; Yankee Doodle Dandy)
Directed By: Howard Hawkes (Rio Bravo; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
Overview: This is based on the true story of a World War One soldier, a pacifist farmer turned hero, a conscientious objector turned draftee.
Acting: Gary Cooper. Even if you've never seen his films, you've heard the name, and you know this will be one that will stick around for quite some time. Add other great roles like York's mother and York's beloved, not to mention his love interest's other jealous suitor, and we'll be content, even though every single other actor does one hell of a job.
Cinematography: War is Hell. I like Hell. I like looking at it. The battle scene was great. The rest of the film was farms and turkey shoots, mules and girls next door. This cinematography really supported the mood of the film rather well and though 'innovation' was probably not something this director thought about, I certainly appreciated the simplicity and the detail.
Script: America in 40s... People sure loved America. Sometimes they crapped on the people, but they've always loved their freedom and their opportunity. The soul of that proud nation always promoted positivism. That's the 40s, this is today. We don't buy it today, but rather than rolling our eyes and saying "puh-LEASE", we think about the good old days when people had morals, when people thought about what they shot at before shooting at it. There's subtext here too though. This was made in 1941, when America was poised on the brink of a second World War, and it made more than a few people think about what they were getting into.
Plot: So here's the thing: A war movie right? Well an hour in and York's not even thinking about the war. We actually start the film with a rabble-rousing upstart firing guns at trees while Sunday mass is going on, and we actually delve into the character as he transforms into a man. This is the point at which he gets drafted, well into the established character, the pacifist and his world. This is a war film that glorifies heroism, not war, a character study about a man's character. The message is one of peace, and that's actually pretty cool, even if it is a little flag-wavey.
Mood: The scene where York contemplates 'fighting for freedom', fighting to SAVE lives, it was just a little overdone, I'll admit, sitting alone up on a hill, silhouetted with the profile of a loyal companion (the dog, not the wife). I waited for an eagle to fly over and drop the Declaration of Independence in his lap, but besides a few overdone accents and saccharine preachiness, this was really enjoyable.
Overall Rating: 76% (A Fight Worth Watching)
Aftertaste: I've said in the past that every WWI movie I've ever seen is great. This is just more fuel for that fire. I didn't like this as much as the other ones but it was certainly worth my time. On top of everything else, this is classic. The word classic goes a long way in most people's books, or at least it should. Maybe America would be better off if its people watched important film like this one rather than Jarhead, burying their head in the sand... Pardon the pun.