The Big Red One - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Red One Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 15, 2014
Sam Fuller's The Big Red One is a fine war film with stunning direction, a great story and exceptional acting. This ranks as one of the genre's finest achievements, a film that shows the harrowing nature of war, which is based on the experience of the director during his years fighting the war. I thought that this was an exciting piece of cinema. The Big Red One may have outclassed by other war films, but its impact is unmatched. This is a highly engrossing picture that is definitely going to appeal to genre fans, and there are several standout performances here as well. I've seen two previous Lee Marvin films, and I very much enjoy his work, however here, he really shines and delivers a standout performance that ranks as one of the finest I have seen of him. He really brings his character to life. Another performance is that of Mark Hamill, aside from fresh of the success of Star Wars, he had some momentum going for him, and he delivers something terrific here, I found him to be that type of character in a war film that steadily become alienated from war, and he really brought a vulnerability that was necessary to the film. With effective storytelling, Fuller crafts a picture that connects with the audience on so many levels, and in turn, it's one of the few genre classics to really thrill, and engage the viewer. Some war films tend to never get the story right, but here, considering the director was a WWII veteran; we get a different picture, a side of war that we've never seen. The Big Red One may seem a little dated by today's standards, but it's a classic war film that every film freak should view. I've watched the longer reconstruction because that was meant as the complete vision of Samuel Fuller's original work, since 50 minutes of footage were cut from the film, and it's a broad, ambitious version that really stands out among the older war pictures. The film may look dated, but it's definitely one of the finest war films ever made, and the fact that the director based it on his wartime experience makes this a definite must watch.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
I saw this movie because Mark Hamill is in it, and he gives a good performance, but other than that, I didn't like this movie. It's just another WWII movie, and it's slow and boring too. I didn't care for it.
Super Reviewer
½ June 19, 2007
A rather clumsy and over-long war movie that contains all the usual "madness of war" messages, but they're delivered in a rather ham-fisted way, and it's directed like a TV show. The emotional drama is clumsy at best, and whenever the grittiness you'd expect in the depiction of violence in an anti-war movie should appear, the director shies away. Half-hearted.
Super Reviewer
March 27, 2005
[font=Century Gothic][color=darkslategray]"Fixed Bayonets"(1951) is a Korean War movie directed by Sam Fuller. In the midst of war, the main force of troops has to retreat. In order to convince the enemy that they have not moved, a small platoon of 48 men has to stay behind and convince them that they are a larger force. There are the usual amount of stock characters and it is predictable but Fuller has more things on his mind this time around. Notably, it is the psychological take on what makes for a good leader. Plus, there are several bravura sequences and an excellent performance from Richard Basehart.(Fixed Bayonets is not in the Rotten Tomatoes database. I'll give it an unofficial 7 out of 10.)[/color][/font]
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[font=Century Gothic][color=red]"The Big Red One"(1980) is a movie about a veteran sergeant(Lee Marvin) leading his troops in World War II from North Africa to the battlefields of Europe. This was Sam Fuller's dream project for many years based partially on his experiences in World War II. It was originally released in a truncated version. Last year, Richard Schickel led a team that restored most of the lost footage. I remember seeing the original version sometime in the 1980's, but I don't remember that much about it(somehow Lee Marvin chucking some poor guy's testicle over his shoulder has managed to stay with me) and couldn't really comment on what was added. It's episodic by its very nature and it does start awkwardly but it does get better as it goes along, ending on an emotionally powerful note. And this is the role that Lee Marvin was born to play. And before you deride Mark Hamill, check out Harrison Ford in Force Ten from Navarone(1979).[/color][/font]
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[font=Century Gothic][color=black]Throughout both movies, there is a consistency. Neither movie glorifies war.[/color][/font]
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Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2014
Wait, I thought that Terrence Malick went on a 20-year hiatus after "Days of Heaven", but here is, only two years later, with the big comeback that they're talking about. Oh, no, wait, this is not "The Thin Red Line", this is "The [u]Big[/u] Red One"! ...Well, that was something of an embarrassing stretch of a way to point out something we were all thinking, considering that this film really is pretty distinct from "The Thin Red Line", considering that it is far from the kind of Cannes-tasticastically arty, meditative war film that Malick made, and that it would take about two decades to wake up after making "Days of Heaven". I make the comparison because I didn't figure that there was a Cannes Film Festival WWII film from America which was less remembered than "The Thin Red Line", although I shouldn't be too surprised, because unless it's "Star Wars" or a "Batman" cartoon, if it has Mark Hamill, you better believe that it's bound to fall into obscurity. Hey, Lee Marvin is here, so maybe we can confuse this with "The Dirty Dozen", or at least its sequel, "The Filthy Five". I understand that the "Filthy Fifteen" inspired "The Dirty Dozen", but it's not like anyone is going to gripe, because no one remembers this film enough to pay attention to what people call it. That's a shame, because this is kind of like a film as good as Malick's "The Thin Red Line", only without all of that boring, experimental storytelling stuff... and with much less dramatic value, and originality, for that matter.

Even narratively, the film is stylized in a manner which pays tribute to old-fashioned war filmmaking sensibilities, while retaining the edge of the then-fresh movement of more brutally realist war filmmaking, and such a formula is unique in a number of ways, but is often taken advantage of so that storytelling can shamelessly lift glaring tropes, both classic and then-up-and-coming, until collapsing as surprisingly familiar. Of course, the film still manages to do only so much to get you familiar with the characters, for although, at least in the case of the leads, developmental shortcomings peak with a lapse in immediate development, there's something frequently lacking about the expository value of this layered ensemble piece, which paints somewhat thin layers to its leads, and hardly any depth at all to the supporting character roster. The film fails to flesh out its depths enough for the narrative to flow, thus, unevenness stands firm, due to, not simply the film's saying only so much about its plot at all, but to its taking an awfully long time to say only so much about its plot. I must admit that, as of the posting date of this review, I am only familiar with the "Reconstruction" cut of the film, which is surely much more excessive than the original final cut that runs exactly 39 minutes(-and-a-half, if anyone's interested) shorter, but I'm sure than any version of this film goes bloated with filler, some of which is fluffy in a way that drives tonal unevenness into this generally gritty drama, and much of which aimlessly drags out a plot which is episodic to begin with. The film isn't so much about a straightforward plot and conflict, as much as it focuses on various misadventures - both weighty and relatively inconsequential - about its leads during wartime, and the bloating really makes it hard to not feel just how disjointed this narrative is, thus, so much momentum is lost as things progress, further worn down by a certain chill to the atmosphere that ranges from bland to out-and-out dull. I was kind of expecting, or at least hoping that the film would border on outstanding, but in the end, it comes closer to bordering on underwhelming, as film which is both lazily formulaic and underdeveloped, and overambitiously bloated to the point of an aimless unevenness, made all the more distancing by a certain dullness. The final product could have gone so much further than it ultimately does, and yet, no matter how sloppy, the film rewards the patient, with plenty of entertainment and dramatic value, and even a fair deal of aesthetic value.

With Dana Kaproff's score being consistently formulaic and Adam Greenberg's cinematography being often a little flat, the film's aesthetic value isn't especially solid, but a realized balance between classic and then-contemporary tastes, particularly in Greenberg's often hauntingly well-lit efforts, attractively immerses you into a unique style of mixing old-fashioned and modernistically edgy war filmmaking sensibilities. Now, what really immerses you in the time and setting of this World War II drama is Peter Jamison's art direction, which is rather basic, but subtly solid enough in its structure and dynamicity to reinforce a sense of scope that ultimately goes a long way in selling the weight of this epic drama. The story concept needs all the realization to execution that it can get, for its episodicity and familiarity limit engagement value, even in a concept that isn't even particularly outstanding, yet is still pretty promising, with dramatic and thematic value as a portrait on the various scenarios of war as seen through the eyes of men who will be changed on the battlefield, both for the better and for the worse. The power of this story concept is underplayed, but it is there to be brought to life, as it is by Samuel Filler's script, at least a times, times in which the expository shortcomings and exhaustingly aimless structural bloating is transcended for the sake of colorful realization to memorable set piece drawings, in addition to near-extensively tasteful highlights in characterization. Well, nothing sells the characters quite like their portrayers, who have surprisingly little to work with, but deliver all the same, with lighting charisma and chemistry, broken up by a moving dramatic range which punctuates a slow, but sure projection of transformation in men who are changed by war, in all of its scale and all of its horror. The acting is decidedly the most consistent strength throughout this film which meets occasions of clumsiness with many a moment of solid inspiration, but cannot be truly saved without an adequate deal of inspiration to Fuller's efforts as director, which is limited, make no mistake, or at least feels as though it is, - what with all of the missteps in the handling of overambition, and in certain dull cold spells in storytelling - yet is nonetheless there, whether it be in the staging of tense action, or in the usage of a piercingly quiet intensity that really works when it works in delicately drawing you into the heart of this opus. Fuller ultimately drops the ball much more often than he should, but one would be hard pressed to deny that misguidance overcomes inspiration, of which there is enough in style, writing, acting and direction, for the final product to transcend its shortcomings as genuinely rewarding on the whole.

In the end, plenty of conventions are hit, while only so much expository depth is explored, even though the film bloats itself so much with filler which leads to an aimless sense of episodicity and unevenness, exacerbated by the coldness that could have dulled the final product down as underwhelming, were it not for the subtly attractive style, immersive art direction, generally colorful scripting, consistently endearing acting, and often effective direction which secure Samuel Fuller's "The Big Red One" as a generally rewarding saga on war.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2010
If Samuel Fuller had a bigger budget and bigger stars when he originally made the movie and if the newly Reconstructed version had been the one released in theaters I believe the film would have more of a classic status ascribed to it. The only big issue I had with the film is the small side plot of a German officer, who appears to fill some kind of a "villain" role, that seems to go nowhere. I did like the performances of Lee Marvin and mark Hamil and its really great to see a WWII movie made by someone who actually fought in that war. Fuller based much of what happened on his own experience and it gives The Big Red One a sense of authenticity that many war films do not have. Band of Brothers actually owes a lot to this movie.
January 22, 2014
Finally got around to watching this in the 'Reconstructed Version', and while I don't normally seek out that much in the way of war films, I enjoyed it and really dug the performances from the ensemble of actors, all of who were very classy and had their own little quirks and whatnot to distinguish themselves from one another.

Well worth a rental.
July 23, 2010
July 2010 - Fuller is clearly trying to give us a striped, real and biographic picture of war. To some degree it works and we have an unconventional war movie without a single story and with scenes that makes it hard to draw a clear line between the good and the bad guys. But this gets mixed up with an immature development of characters that try to be more than ordinary soldiers. This emphasis on these characters and their weird friendship also stands on the way of making a semi-documentary about war and its ugliness. I should add that I liked the very first sequence of the black and white memories of the WWI with just the red ribbons; but that also remains irrelevant to the rest of the movie.
July 17, 2010
Lee Marvin reloading Mark Hamill at the concentration camp is one of the most powerful, and certainly most memorable scenes ever
Super Reviewer
September 30, 2007
"Those Sicilian women cooked us a grat meal.
Too bad they were over 50.
We were more horny than we were hungry."
May 30, 2010
I'll hand it to Fuller on this one. He doesn't fill this movie up with bullshit sympathy like so many other war movies do. In fact his characters do the opposite. When facing a dead soldier in their own side they simply pick up their helmets and run. There's no dramatic stare down with forced tears. We also know the characters only by their time serving together. No flashbacks and no back stories either. We're simply given the instruction to carefully observe and see what we can find out about these men.
½ February 9, 2009
Anyone who has read writer-director Samuel Fuller's memoirs "A Third Face" will be familiar with his war experiences and see them depicted in this film.

What is lacks in production values and certain other aesthetic values, it makes up in great writing and acting, especially as the events depicted in this film are so antithetical to the typical WW2 films made by Hollywood.

Fuller's core belief that there are no heroes in war, just lucky guys who didn't catch a bullet, is shown unapologetically here. And it's no surprise that fellow WW2 vet Lee Marvin was a passionate supporter of Fuller's vision and promised him he'd star in this film for years before it ever got made.
November 30, 2008
Long and boring film that has surprisingly little war in it. Lee Marvin is good as always but the rest is terrible.
December 15, 2007
This wasn't a bad WWII movie. However, it lacked a clear focus and the character development was poor. It's a shame, too, given the cast. This could have been much more.
July 9, 2007
Easily the most enjoyable Fuller film. Follows a troop of young soldiers, led by Lee Marvin, who realize they are cannon fodder for the greater mission in WWII. Extra half star for casting Mark Hammil as a Nazi slayer.
½ April 25, 2007
When I first saw this film in the 80's I had a vested interest in the material as both of my grandfathers had served in WWII. One even spent time in a Nazi camp. And Fuller, while not having the budget of Spielberg made a pretty good movie I think, and being a veteran, he had actually been there. Lee Marvin carries this film and makes it great. Marvin was also a WWII veteran and had seen action in the Pacific Theater in the Marines. The movie follows a core group of riflemen through Africa, Italy, D-Day, and Europe. I am especially drawn to Mark Hamill's caracter "Griff" who can't bring himself to kill another human untill he witnesses the horrors perpertrated by the Nazis in the death camps. As I've said, this film dosen't have the spectacular battle scenes that "Saving Private Ryan" has but the emotional impact is just as strong. As the film makes clear, "The only glory in war is surviving".
½ October 6, 2006
Once again the directors cut version of this movie is far superior to the original movie and Lee Marvin is great in the role as the battle harden sergeant.
½ September 26, 2006
This movie is gritty and fun. It's good to see Mark Hamill without a lightsaber. Somewhat dated with its effects, but still captivating.
½ September 6, 2015
Vellykket krigsepos, der er stykket sammen af anekdotiske episoder og kan ses som en forløber for tv-serien "Band of Brothers" eller en filmisk parallel til Joe Kuberts tegneserie om Sergent Rock.
½ April 5, 2015
I found they glorified Lee Marvin's character a little too much. Besides that minor complaint, The Big Red One is a solid war film. When I watch war movies I want them to be shocking, intelligent or a good buddy movie, and this is a movie about good buddies. You can take these personalities and put them in college and probably get a fun movie out of it. Lee Marvin was just acting like Lee Marvin in a war movie, but I was surprised by Mark Hamill. He did such a good job that I actually saw him as his character rather than Mark Hamill in a Star Wars movie set in WWII. He did a good job blending in with the rest of the cast. And I'm actually not hating on Lee Marvin here. I've just seen the same character in the same setting before, and the film heavily suggests that you like him right away instead of warming up to him. His best scene was at the end, with the boy. Very touching. And the scene on the beach, in my opinion, was just as thrilling as Saving Private Ryan.
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