The Desert Fox - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Desert Fox Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 20, 2010
The first of two appearances by James Mason in one of his defining roles as Erwin Rommel, telling the story of his life from hero of the third reich through to his eventual disillusionment with Hitler and involvement in the plot on his life. No doubt inspired by Churchill's wartime tribute to the man, The Desert Fox is an acknowledgement of the skill and integrity of one of the world's greatest military tacticians which takes great pains to distance him from Hitler and the Nazi party. It is a typically romantic British attempt to be graceful in victory and is clearly meant as an attempt at reconciliation with Germany and its people; the story vehemently shows that Rommel and many of his colleagues were merely professional soldiers doing their duty to their country, unwillingly following the orders of a maniacal tyrant whom they had to obey under pain of death. It is basically de-dehumanizing an enemy that wartime propaganda had spent the previous years rallying the British public against. Mason is superb in the leading role, and every scene that features the exchanges between he and an excellent supporting cast paint a believable and respectful portrait of the man. Unfortunately the pacing stutters as it constantly feels the need to show the gallant allied forces through actual documentary footage and Michael Rennie's voice over makes this biopic feel like a dry inventory of the events of his life, but it's a fascinating story and worth it for Mason's performance alone.
Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2008
James Mason is fine as always and Jessica Tandy is stalwart as his wife but the picture itself is rather uninvolving.
½ August 11, 2012
a decent but busy film that mostly is accurate, but features very little of Rommel's legendary battlefield tactics and record, and mostly focuses on his disagreement with Hitler and support of the conspirators.
½ February 18, 2009
The many strong performances, and especially Mason's, are still more than enough to keep a viewer watching, but in other regards this movie definitely shows its age; particularly the wooden narration, the use of obvious stock footage, and cheap sets interspersed with the extravagant ones. To its credit, this film avoids the patriotic one-sidedness common of war flicks of the era and pays a very reverential examination to this intriguing and undeniably brilliant military leader.
January 2, 2009
The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel
directed by Henry Hathaway
written by Nunnally Johnson
based on the memoirs by Desmond Young
starring James Mason, Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy, Luther Adler, Everett Sloane, Leo G. Carroll, Eduard Franz

In this biopic of Field Marshall Erwin Johannes Rommel (Mason) the trials and tribulations of war are articulated with a finely honed style and definitive bombast.

Rommel routinely flirts with a plot to Kill Hitler (Adler) that has made its presence felt during the latter half of WWII. He finds the idea to be rather attractive but ultimately is unable to fully commit. Mason plays Rommel as a nervous type who also seems uncommitted to furthering the war effort without the proper accommodations. He storms into an audience with a hysterical, seemingly delusional Hitler who is more interested in all the new magnificent weapons he is convinced will turn the tide and assure a German victory.

Rommel is presented as an able and often brilliant Field Marshall who was in charge of Deutsches Afrikakorps and the German Army in North Africa.. He is also shown as a family man with a wife and a grown son who also joins the army and eagerly enters the fray. He is dedicated on both fronts and the film articulates an iron will that is later challenged by circumstances beyond his control.

The film dedicates much of its time to the plot as various officers and civilians attempt to organize a proper methodology in order to effectively carry out their plan of removing Hitler from the seat of power and replacing him with a person of their choosing. After months of planning the dye is cast and the mission carried out by Col. Klaus von Stauffenberg (Franz) who plants a briefcase beneath a table at a meeting of high ranking German officials including Hitler.

There is a real sense of the futility of the German effort throughout this film. It focuses on many failed missions that stress the German troops and military administration to the breaking point. Much of this is contained in the face of Rommel as Mason reveals much of the agony surrounding the German military. Defeat is the cause celebre and it hangs over ever frame in this film.

James Mason captures a definite pathos throughout this film. His eyes seem to be searching for an answer that will not come. They are resigned to an outcome that means the end of operations and untrammeled defeat for the German military machine within which he performed so diligently and with such integrity. Rommel in this film is a genteel officer and Mason plays his with an elegance and a forthrightness that is fraught with a tenderness rarely afforded such men throughout the history of cinema.

Overall, this film captures the urgency of the plot and provides an intriguing view into the operations of war. There are many scenes of war including one where guns are a blazing and the viewer gets lost in a cacophony of bright lights and incessant gunfire that dazzles the mind and creates a lasting impression on the body. This is somewhat different for war photography in films as it gives a proper sense of the impact of the fighting as sensory overload. Rommel is portrayed with kid gloves and the portrait ultimately is of a goodly man who came to properly loathe the Nazi system and it?s approach to life. It is because of this viewpoint, developed later in life, that Rommel in this film is portrayed in such a shimmering light. He is merely a soldier who came to a place in his development where he could no longer entertain the belief that the Nazi?s were fully competent in performing their duties for Germany and her people. This is a man of integrity who is given the full on treatment in this film as a man of honor despite the very real fact that he caused much death to the Allied forces during his illustrious career.
½ March 4, 2008
Action Commando Raid opening sequence is top notch (Notable for having a clean shaven Richard "Paladin" Boone as a Nazi Afrika Korpsman with an arrogant attitude) but the film devolves into a biopic from the British point of view, basically giving respect to the guy that gave them several good kicks in the slats and was never a hardcore Nazi. Rommel was more the pure warrior, and his WW1 history is not covered here, which skews the story somewhat. Rommel had a series of books about his exploits in WW1 as a (true and actual) "Stormtrooper" Commando and was famous long before the "Ratzis" took over, which is why A.H. sought to exploit his reputation for their own twisted purposes (and also explains why they had to ice him later). Still, a wwell made movie worth some 2AM popcorn time...
½ May 29, 2007
Exciting opening doesn't save this humdrum biopic about
one of WW2's greatest generals. Film is more interested in lionizing Rommel than in giving us insight into what made him tick.
½ September 22, 2015
The Desert Fox is an incredible film. It is about the final years of the respected World War II German general, Erwin Rommel. James Mason and Cedric Hardwicke give excellent performances. The screenplay is well written. Henry Hathaway did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama and action.
January 19, 2014
This is a limited biopic that almost bulletpoints the events of its subject's life but when the general public thinks of Rommel they likely picture James Mason, and so this has to be regarded as an iconic role for the actor.
July 9, 2007
I found this a bit too dry for my tastes.
August 2, 2013
This movie suffers a bit from an uneven mood: It feels like part documentary (since it uses a lot of actual combat footage), part Cold War propaganda (building up Rommel a bit too much as a sympathetic character for Western audiences), and part World War II drama. The first half of the film feels weak for those reasons, but then the performances among the lead actors abruptly get really good when Rommel starts to get drawn into the plot to assassinate Hitler. Chronicling that plot and its aftermath become the focus of the movie thereafter, and it's done very well, so despite the uneven quality, I rate it 3 stars on the strength of the performances of James Mason, Jessica Tandy, Cedric Hardwick, and especially Leo G. Carroll, who utterly convinced me that he'd been playing the palace intrigue game with the German general staff his whole life.
May 28, 2013
Boring story about a German general who (finally) feels that Hitler is mad
September 29, 2012
A sensational James Mason as the most popular German general--History's mysteries!!
½ August 11, 2012
a decent but busy film that mostly is accurate, but features very little of Rommel's legendary battlefield tactics and record, and mostly focuses on his disagreement with Hitler and support of the conspirators.
July 29, 2012
Compelling multi-layered portrait of Nazi Field Marshal Rommel. It's interesting that just six years after the ending of WWII that a Hollywood film would actually make a film about a Nazi who although was part of a plot to kill Hitler, would still get a quite sympathetic film made about them. Mason is great as always, but there is also a terrific supporting cast that includes Leo G. Carroll, Richard Boone, George Macready and Jessica Tandy. Producer/screenwriter Nunnally Johnson delivers another strong script and director Henry Hathaway is reliable as always for delivering good action sequences. A smart and thoughtful war biography told from the other side.
June 30, 2012
An accurate account of one of the great WWII generals.
May 12, 2012
James Mason liked to dress up like Rommel in his spare time and this is one of the only times it was appropriate.." Nazi ,Nazi yes, yes!!" he would scream till his pudding and Adolf doll was brought to him. I give this movie 2 swastikas up. Tanktastic!!
½ October 2, 2011
One of the best war movies I,ve ever seen. Rivals "Paths of Glory" the scenes with dialogue between the participants riveting, sure the war scenes are stock footage and cheesy but hell it was made in 51. Do yourself a favor and see this movie.
March 21, 2011
Historical accuracy skillfully laced with actual WWII footage and brilliant articulation of involving storyline. Takes an in-depth tour of Rommel; unquestionably the driving brilliance behind German control of North Africa.

Rommel was respected by both friend and foe for his class and genius in war. He is by far my personal favorite of the Axis generals.

An excellent partner to the movie "Patton".
Provides a nice turn of the table.
January 23, 2011
It state at the begining off the film this is the ture story of rommell but then skip all the backgorund histoy of the man and start at the battle of a liamin. althogh mason acting is exerlent the film was so low budget with thouse fake back drops with no actule german airaft and tanks are seen in the film. rommel is made out to be a good gay when actley he was a complete nazie and new what hitler was doing. So I give the film +20% just for mason acting
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