Saturday, September 10, 2011

Too Late the Hero (1970)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Michael Caine, Cliff Robertson, Ian Bannen, Harry Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Denholm Elliott, Lance Percival, Percy Herbert, Henry Fonda

More info: IMDb

Tagline: War. It's a dying business.

Plot: In the spring of 1942, in Southwest Pacific, Captain John G. Nolan (Fonda) postpones the leave of the volunteer Lieutenant, Sam Lawson (Robertson). Instead he gives him an assignment in the New Hebrides with British troops, based on the required profile - fluency in Japanese. When Lt. Lawson arrives in the base, the commander explains that the island is divided between the British and Japanese sectors. Lt. Lawson asks him to go with a group of soldiers behind the Japanese lines to destroy their radio and transmit a false message to the Japanese forces. Captain Hornsby (Elliott) is assigned to lead the group. However, during the tense mission, he has disagreements with the insubordinate Private Tosh Hearne (Caine). When things go wrong, the soldiers have to fight to survive while exposing their weakness in character.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I’ve always liked Cliff Robertson but after seeing this picture for the second time, I REALLY like him. This cat’s good. The rest of the cast does a fine job as well (you can always depend on Michael Caine for something special) but Robertson’s performance stood out.

Denholm Elliott is very good as Capt. Hornsby, a man with no combat experience chosen to lead this small group of men behind enemy lines. I enjoy a good actor when they can play a character like his that risks the lives of others due to their ineptitude. When it’s done well it’s painful to watch. Elliott made me cringe with some of the decisions he made.

One thing that struck me on this viewing was that once the mission was underway and we’re in the jungle for the duration, the characters blend in with the scenery. Yeah, they’re in camouflage but it’s more than that. It’s the overall look of the film with the players and the background sort of being one with the jungle.

There are several moments of real tension, between the Brits and Japs and among the Brits themselves. There are a lot of bonehead choices made among some of the soldiers that have some dire consequences but their actions feel justified considering what they’ve gone through. Just don’t get attached to any of them. I liked the ending but I would have preferred it to be ambiguous as to who survives. I had forgotten who did since the last time so I was completely surprised again this time. Geez, memory is a funny thing. All in all, though, TOO LATE THE HERO belongs on that sizable list of really good WWII movies that any fan of this genre needs to see.

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