The Big Red One - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Red One Reviews

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April 14, 2017
The most genuine portrayal of war ever made. This isn't Coppola's horrific portrait or Kubrick's clean message on dehumanization, but a film about a story above all. Yet, as it happens, the movie doesn't really have a story.
½ March 13, 2017
Made a huge impact on how a movie should be specially war movie. To date it is one of the best ever.
October 25, 2016
Definitely one of the more boring movies I've seen.
October 14, 2016
Powerful scenes marvelously acted by top notch casting. While I might defer to Saving Private Ryan now, this is an absolute masterpiece that should not be forgotten or ignored.
½ September 12, 2016
The Big Red One feels more real than many war films I've seen, despite the implausibility of its characters surviving all that they do. Fuller's final masterpiece may not be what you typically think of as an epic classic, but it's as artful as a pulp master could possibly produce.
September 4, 2016
The Big Red One (1980) C-113m. ??? 1/2 D: Samuel Fuller. Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine. Biting, extremely exciting war story detailing events of Normandy, Ardennes, and liberation of a concentration camp. Epic in scale, rich in drama, flawlessly directed by Fuller. Director's Cut (also know as "The Reconstruction") is even more impressive for its humanity as well as its powerful action sequences. This version runs 162 minutes and is rated ????. Fuller's finest hour; he also wrote this masterpiece.
February 17, 2016
This was always a "pretty good movie". I don't know when they did it, but when I downloaded it recently, this movie I have known inside & out, had GROWN !! (by around 30 min or so) A lot of good material, like all of the action at "The Kasserine Pass" etc., and other things that had previously made me wonder "What the...", are now there. If you liked the movie before, I suggest you find a re-vamped copy of "The Big Red One", as it is now "The Bigger Redder 1 1/2 !!"
½ January 24, 2016
Many memorable war scenes not all of which involve combat.
Super Reviewer
January 21, 2016
We follow a squad of five guys throughout the American drive of WWll. Beginning in North Africa and ending in (what used to be) Czechoslovakia, a wizened Lee Marvin leads his men in an episodic overview of the typical War Is Hell quilt patchwork, the undertone being the comraderie of unit holding them together. It's a big war though, the amount of time given to each portion feeling rushed, and therein are the strings of the puppeteer made readily apparent. Saving Private Ryan does it all better, but this one ain't a bad substitution.
½ December 28, 2015
Mildly recognized for being Mark Hamill's one recognized film outside of the Star Wars series, The Big Red One sounded like a chance to see Luke Skywalker in a different form of action and alongside Lee Marvin.

The narrative structure in The Big Red One is rather episodic. Rather than moving towards a resolution for a singular plot point, The Big Red One unfolds in a directionless manner with a focus on characters. There is hardly a story in The Big Red One because director Samuel Fuller's perspective is clearly that war is not a tale of adventure but simply a hectic barrage of explosive violence. He has a valid point and he stakes this claim very clearly with The Big Red One, though it might polarize viewers. Some audiences will find its realism to be striking and original, though others will find frustration with the lack of consistent and direct focus. For me, I found it to be an element that made The Big Red One to be a distinctive war film and that its originality was very rich, though I will also admit that its episodic structure left it to be somewhat inconsistent Some of the vignettes tend to drag on for a while yet others are strongly engaging. These scenes oscillate between periods of dialogue and depictions of warfare which can create an inconsistent pace, and at 162 minutes there is a lot of it to sit through. The script itself is intelligent and the film has a lot of sub-textual commentary to make, it's just that the way in which it unfolds as a naturalistic experience for the day to day experiences of WWII leaves some days being less interesting than others. Still, it is far more admirable and creative than it is boring.
Despite its low budget, there is nothing that stands in the way of Samuel Fuller realizing the full extent of his stylish potential. The Big Red One feels incredibly genuine as a war film, and the fact that it accomplished so much on a budget of $4 million is a remarkable achievement. Shot on location in Israel and Ireland, the scenery provides the perfect platform for the story to unfold in The Big Red One with all its gritty dirt and dilapidated buildings. The production design and costumes help to set the convincing nature of the film, yet the most gripping part proves to be how these all converge in the action sequences. Depicting all kinds of battles including D-Day at Normandy, the action in The Big Red One combines all the brilliant production elements while intensifying the cinematography and editing. The sound effects are ramped up during these scenes and there is no censorship on the quantity of blood, though it is not to a grotesque extent. The battle scenes depicted in The Big Red One are intense and exhilarating action which capture the full extent of violence and unexpected horrors of the war brilliantly. The Big Red One is a spectacle on and off the battlefield. And when the battle is not occurring, the atmosphere remains strong thanks to the beautiful composition of Dana Kaproff's musical score. Capturing a patriotic feeling with subtlety as not to go overboard, The Big Red One maintains music which pushes the narrative forward with tension and sadness without dragging viewers down into sappy territory. The mood of the film develops on its own, and the music in The Big Red One simply works to capitalize on it all.
And though The Big Red One is not as well-recognized as it truly should be, it maintains a strong cast of prominent actors who all give their best to the feature.
Legendary Academy Award winner Lee Marvin leads the cast in The Big Red One. Iconic for his work in many war films including The Dirty Dozen (1967), Lee Marvin easily has the charisma of a leading soldier. Lee Marvin delivers the greatest performance from around the end of his career in The Big Red One because his uses his age to convey a feeling of being worn down by the first world war and also wise in his plight. He keeps his tense emotions rather subtle a lot of the time to capture the emotional distance of a surviving solider, though he also interacts with the fellow actors as a mean of establishing a true feeling of camaraderie. In essence, Lee Marvin is the perfect caricature of an aged soldier in The Big Red One and ties the cast together with his many years of experience as an actor all converging into a singular performance. Lee Marvin has lost none of his rough-edged skill or natural charm as an actor over the years, and The Big Red One is the final example of his maximum potential in his long and impressive career where his role is essentially him passing the last of his spirit onto the talent collection of young actors around him.
Mark Hamill is great in The Big Red One. Stripped of the shining demeanour that gave him glory in the Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), Mark Hamill has his youthful charisma but is the furthest thing from Luke Skywalker. Thrown into the torments of war, Mark Hamill is buried beneath his uniform and the dirty terrain around him to characterize Pvt. Griff as a soldier of the same relevance as everyone else. The film plays this notion so that he doesn't stand out too much, but any scene that focuses on Pvt. Griff serves to prove just what potential Mark Hamill maintains, and the answer proves to be plenty. During his sporadic collection of scenes, Mark Hamill really goes all out and conveys vulnerability and brotherhood in his character while progressively developing more intensity as he loses his identity to the horrors of the war. You can always see the youth in him, but by the end of The Big Red One his innocence is lost behind the trigger of his gun. To play such a nameless character when his legacy rests so prominently on the Jedi who restored peace to the galaxy proves the underutilized potential of Mark Hamill's acting skills, so the fact that The Big Red One had its glory restored means that hopefully a wider audience can realize it one day.
Robert Carradine is also a notorious addition to the cast. Prior to his most iconic role as the quintessential nerd Lewis Skolnick in Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Robert Carradine portrays a frail yet charming young soldier in The Big Red One where he manages to use his natural frail persona to create a friendly appeal. As his character represents the experiences of director Samuel Fuller he is clearly an essential part of the film, and the way that he easily oscillates between accruing uncertainty outside of the battle and determination to strike down his enemies while in combat is refreshing. Robert Carradine's dramatic talents in The Big Red One add further legacy to the Carradine name if it wasn't already impressive enough.

So The Big Red One's episodic formula may drag on for a long time, but the pure originality in all this coupled with Samuel Fuller's intense and stylistic vision creates a raw and real depiction of war which with a cast of precise talent.
December 20, 2015
Although it lacks the intense socio-political message(s) that director Sam Fuller crammed into his earlier war picture The Steel Helmet (1951), the Big Red One instead succeeds on the basis of its sheer epic nature (at least in this 160 minute reconstruction). Across a number of different theatres of WWII, Lee Marvin and his squad try to stay alive while Germans try to kill them. Robert Carradine stands in for Fuller himself (these are his personal anecdotes), a cigar chomping fledgling author. Mostly the film feels alive rather than grim or horrifying (although there is that) - maybe we become numb to all the dead bodies because the characters themselves are numb? Marvin is tough but also warm and the affection Fuller feels/felt for this sergeant comes through loud and clear. The rest of the characters (including Mark Hamil) are somewhat less defined (and all a bit juvenile, as they probably were). Relentlessly, the war keeps coming and coming and coming, yet somehow the movie never feels long. We are alive and focused on the moment of action.
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 August 27, 2015
A campy WWII epic about a misfit troupe of infantry that seemed to last as long as the war did.
½ April 9, 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.
½ March 9, 2015
I watched the 'reconstruction' just the other day - somehow I missed this film - and its a genre I often enjoy. I was lead to believe it was, among other things; an epic, a masterpiece - Hamill's best performance, ever! I guess its all about opinions after all. If you are looking for comparisons, then its not an American Sniper, Saving Private Ryan, or, A Bridge Too Far - more Hogan's Hero's meets Cross Of Iron.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2015
Okey war movie and i saw the directors cut but u can find better classics.
August 16, 2014
"The Big Red One", na sua versão reconstruída de duas horas e meia, é a saga da Segunda Guerra Mundial que Samuel Fueller merecia realizar, depois de ter desenvolvido o projecto durante tantos anos. Não existem twists e a sua narrativa trata sobretudo dos confrontos entre tropas americanas e alemãs, mas há uma evidente sabedoria por parte de Fuller na encenação de vibrantes sequências de guerra, num filme que as tem em grande quantidade. Para ver há também um papel que coroa toda a carreira de Lee Marvin em filmes de guerra.
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
½ June 21, 2014
Loosely based on a series of horrific anecdotes personally lived by director Samuel Fuller, The Big Red One is the director's personal feature that finally made him earn his first Palme d'Or nomination. He was asked to recall his experiences while serving as an infantry soldier in the European Theatre of the Second World War. Under these terms, it is no ordinay war feature. The narrative is intentionally disjointed into an episodic structure, like fractured memoirs of an upset soul trying to put the pieces together about violent accounts in the middle of inhuman circumstances.

Several users have agreed, and I join them: the film is misunderstood. The film can be fairly credited for being the first war movie to do a number of peculiar stunts: its strength relies on the characters and the script, instead of the battle sequences, even if the film is decently accomplished from a technical point of view; it introduced terms such as "replacement", "non-Coms" and "Krouts"; it treats war as a nonsensical struggle capable of causing madness in its participants; it is the second feature to treat D-Day as an important event in the development of the film; children shape the characters' motivations. By all means, it won't provide a typical moviewatching experience, pecifically talking about the genre it treats.

A good cinematography captures the magnitude of the events while keeping us distant if necessary to calture the magnitude of the violence inflicted. However, in its retellings, the movie drags in moments, and the direction is not strong enough to transmit the horrors that 5 constant years under war can provide. I am convinced we had a revolutionary masterpiece in hands with unexploited psychological potential, maybe because of getting stuck within Hollywood boundaries. Nevertheless, the quality assures a fully supported recommendation for those seeking ideas spoken in an unusual manner.

A recent reconstruction runs for 162 minutes and is credited for being the fullest version of the director's vision. I am looking forward to it, because maybe there lies a great portion of the potential I felt was unexplored... if not all of it!

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