The Way Ahead (The Immortal Battalion) (1945) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Way Ahead (The Immortal Battalion) (1945)




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The Immortal Battalion has a bit of a convoluted history. It started life as a training film, The New Lot, which ran 44 minutes. When Winston Churchill approached David Niven about creating a film that would do for the British Army what In Which We Serve had done for the Royal Navy, he contacted Carol Reed and suggested expanding The New Lot. The result, written by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov, was the acclaimed The Way Ahead. For its U.S. release, Way Ahead was edited to a shorter length and retitled The Immortal Battalion. In either of its feature length forms, the film is concerned with the training of a bunch of raw recruits into a capable and efficient fighting regiment. Niven stars as Jim Perry, a lieutenant and former ordinary guy who finds that he must learn to take a tough line in order to make his wildly diverse crew come together and understand the importance both of the war and of their place in it. Although it takes time and constant effort on the part of Perry and his sergeant, the eight men eventually overcome their different backgrounds and feelings, and transform themselves into a unit which performs its tasks with admirable skill and dexterity, preparing them for their battle against the Desert Fox in Africa. Told in a semi-documentary style, Battalion also features the screen debut of Trevor Howard. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


David Niven
as Lieutenant Jim Perry
Raymond Huntley
as Davenport
William Hartnell
as Sergeant Fletcher
Leo Genn
as Company Commander
Leslie Dwyer
as Side Beck
Hugh Burden
as Parsons
Jimmy Hanley
as Stainer
Peter Ustinov
as Rispoli
Alf Goddard
as Instructor
Mary Jerrold
as Mrs. Gillingham
Raymond Lovell
as Garage Proprietor
A.E. Matthews
as Col. Walmsley
Tessie O'Shea
as Herself
Reginald Tate
as Commanding Officer
Jack Watling
as Marjorie's Boy Friend
George Merritt
as Sgt. Maj.
Trevor Howard
as Officer
Renée Ashershon
as Marjorie Gillingham
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Critic Reviews for The Way Ahead (The Immortal Battalion)

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (3)

Direction by Carol Reed is competent, and undoubtedly accounts for the underlying genuineness of the picture as a semi-documentary.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

A warm and touching tribute to the British Army infantryman.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Despite a framework which stresses regimental traditions and military valour, the film's celebration of the ordinary man as soldier leaves a residue of radicalism.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Bracing, spirited and lovely.

Full Review… | February 25, 2013
TV Guide

Carol Reed directed this 1944 war film from a script by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov.

Full Review… | July 26, 2012
Movie Metropolis

A rousing flag-waving war drama about the British Army, that was shot during the war and grew out of being a training film.

Full Review… | August 10, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Way Ahead (The Immortal Battalion)


Excellent performance by David Niven. The movie kept my interest. I've seen it all before--the ragtag bunch of draftees becomes a top flight fighting unit. It's good, but I doubt I'll watch it again. This was made during WWII so that gives it a slightly different edge.

Morris Nelms
Morris Nelms

Super Reviewer


It's quite a coincidence that the release date of this British wartime production was June 6, 1944. D-Day. Having gained a foothold on Fortress Europe, the allies still had the prospect of the long march to Berlin ahead...and with that daunting task in mind, I'm pretty sure the optimistic tone of this Carol Reed flick was designed to help bolster the public's morale. The theme of the film is certainly a familiar one to moviegoers by now. We follow a rag-tag group of enlistees - representing various strata of British society - and watch as they undergo Army basic training. In time, even this group of misfits is transformed into a well-disciplined fighting unit under the command of Lt. Jim Perry (David Niven) and drill sergeant Ned Fletcher (William Hartnell). It's not until the 2nd half of the flick does the action ramp up a bit. The group boards a transport ship headed for the northern coast of Africa where the forces of General Rommel await them...but before they can get there - disaster strikes. An explosion racks their transport ship and it is soon a raging inferno. The scene is surprisingly similar to one in Humphrey Bogart's ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (released a year prior to this). A very young Peter Ustinov has a small role as a cafe owner. Ustinov co-wrote the screenplay. I also didn't notice his name in the credits but Trevor Howard can be seen as the transport ship officer. Being a propaganda film - it's completely sanitized of any overt violence - virtually death-free for a war flick. Only the greater virtues of war and man need be shown. The USA cut even has an added prologue and epilogue equating the british common men depicted in the film to the Minutemen of the Revolutionary War. Interesting. 7 / 10

bernard anselmo
bernard anselmo

An interesting film about the war shot during the war but only for those really into the subject since it is pretty weak compared to some hidden little gems of WWII desert warfare movies.

Ben Gui
Ben Gui

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