A Walk in the Sun (1945)
A Walk and a Talk in the Sun
Despite focussing on a group of American soldiers as they land in Italy during the 1943 invasion with a mission to fortify a farm house "A Walk in the Sun" is a very different sort of war movie. It is different because whilst we have action and drama it is a wordy war movie about the men as they land and make their way across country. We listen to their chats about mundane things whilst also hearing their inner thoughts and that wordiness makes it such a different sort of war movie.
Now I have heard "A Walk in the Sun" described as one of the most realistic war movies ever made and I won't disagree because I couldn't tell you if it was like that for the men in the front line. But what I will say that if you are only accustom to war movies which centre on a mission and the fighting it is going to be hard going, seriously hard going especially during the first half. This first half as we watch the men in the barges waiting to land, then digging in to the beach when they land and then make it to nearby woods is predominantly talk. No seriously we get pretty much a continuous flow of talk and whilst some is about the mission there is a lot which is general chit chat between men and their plans for after the war. It almost feels like it is going nowhere and you have to dig beneath the talk to understand the characters and the purpose of what seems random chit chat in giving themselves a purpose to continue.
Now the second half is very similar to the first as we continue with a string of conversations with many seeming to serve no purpose at all. But then we also get more familiar aspects of war as various people either get killed or wounded during various attacks from a plane swooping on a ditch to close encounters with armoured vehicles. It allows the emotional impact to start to show itself more obviously as these men have to deal with loss especially of their assigned leaders.
But this second half then delivers what for me is the best part of the movie, the siege on the actual farmhouse after they have made their way across 6 miles of enemy country. Now again we have chit chat, it is the predominant element of the movie but the actual siege is atmospheric, dramatic, action packed but also emotional. For me it makes getting through the heavily worded first half worth while because admittedly I prefer my war movies to be action packed but at the same time this action has realism to it as we see many men die in the process.
Now back in 1943 "A Walk in the Sun" had a lot of fresh young talent, Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, John Ireland, Norman Lloyd and Lloyd Bridges are just some of the faces you will recognize and who went on to have big careers. What is interesting is that with this being a movie about the men each of their characters are not only distinct but also get their moment to shine such as Conte's bravado with his machine gun. But at the same time there is no one star, it is a collective of good performances which make it work, makes all the characters seem real.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "A Walk in the Sun" builds to a brilliant action packed climax it is not your normal sort of war movie. This is a movie about the men and the way they react in battle from their fears to the general conversations which help them to keep going.
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