Another day, another 60’s World War II movie with an ensemble cast that is really really great. Man, they really knew how to make them back then didn’t they?! ‘The Dirty Dozen‘ is another real classic movie that everyone and their dad’s will love!
Based on a book that was inspired by the real life ‘Filthy Thirteen’ (bit less catchy I think), the story follows Lee Marvin’s Major Reisman as he puts together a team of criminals he must train for a suicide mission to a party of German commanders. Killing the commanders will make them less able to respond to D-Day, and nobody will miss these twelve convicts who are most likely going to be killed on mission. The film is quite long, but it doesn’t feel like it as you see the team being formed all the way through to their mission at the end. They are trained, they rebel, but they’re good at what they do.
Needless to say, the cast is excellent. Lee Marvin is the take no rubbish leader of the group. he doesn’t like these men at first, but he comes to like them a heck of a lot more than his horrible superior officers. And as he spends more time with the group, he comes to appreciate them in ways he never thought he would. Seeing him change his opinion is great and carries through the entire film, guiding the audience’s view on the criminals too. Speaking of the criminals, they’re all great but there’s a few of note. One of my faves, Charles Bronson is Waldislaw, and he’s, well, Charles Bronson-like. He’s his usual cool, stoic self with a few outbursts here and there. Short version, he’s great. John Cassavetes plays Franko, one of the more arrogant and troublesome members of the group. He’s the naughty kid in class that’s always acting up and answering back and is actually quite funny, despite being a bit of an idiot.
There’s Donald Sutherland, another troublemaker who gets some really great laughs out of his scenes. Jim Brown plays one cool but tough guy and Telly Savalas plays the slightly (read: very) crazy one who you just don’t trust. This is basically ‘Suicide Squad‘ but cooler and much much MUCH better. The whole cast put in great performances and they work really well together. Seeing them bounce off of one another you really do feel like they’re just some mates at school who are acting out a bit because they don’t respect authority.
But seeing them eventually come round to the idea of their mission and respecting Major Reisman is really satisfying. And seeing them overcome the doubt and scowls of Reisman’s superiors and actually show everyone that they’re very capable is even greater. There’s some great laughs and some really great action. The actual seige at the end is very well staged and there’s a training mission that is one of the highlights for me. It’s so well planned and executed, both in terms of filmmaking and story-wise that it’s all just very enjoyable to watch. To think that director Robert Aldrich actually gets us to feel for these criminals by the end is really something.
This is a really great film. It’s got everything and it’s one of those classic 60’s war movies that you just need to see. It’s up there with The Great Escape for sure! And hey, if it’s good enough for Tom Hanks in ‘Sleepless in Seattle‘, then it’s good enough for all of you!
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5