A General Look
Col. David 'Mickey' Marcus (Kirk Douglas) is approached by Haganah agent, Maj. Safir (James Donald), who would like him to help train Israeli troops in the newly formed state so they are prepared for attack from the surrounding Arab countries. With his wife not keen on him going and with out the official backing of the US Government Mickey heads over there under the false name of Michael Stone where he meets the attractive Magda Simon (Senta Berger) and helps lead a rag bag bunch of men on an attack on an Arab fuel dump. But after events force him to return to America he finds himself heading back to Israel and made a General, in charge of the various groups of soldiers who agree to work together to reach the besieged Jerusalem where the people are desperate for supplies.
I am going to stop with the synopsis there and start this review of "Cast a Giant Shadow" by saying that I watched this because of it being a Kirk Douglas movie with plenty of stars in supporting roles rather than because this is an account of Colonel Mickey Marcus who was involved with the Israel Defence Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From what I have read is that this is a fictionalized account and as I am no history buff I have no idea what parts of this movie are fact and which are fiction.
But what I will say is that "Cast a Giant Shadow" is an entertaining, big budget movie with Kirk Douglas playing this leader of men who is not prone to bending the rules and finding himself romantically conflicted when he falls for Magda despite having a wife back in America. In truth there is an almost typical side to this as we have Douglas playing Mickey with that trademark confidence which borders on arrogance and the whole attraction to Magda allows him to trade on being a romantic leading man as well.
The thing is that whilst Kirk Douglas delivers a strong performance and is surrounded by other stars such as Angie Dickinson, John Wayne and also Topol, to name but a few, the real interest in "Cast a Giant Shadow" is this look at the situation in Israel at the time. As such we see that initially there were individual fighting forces with no central control, we see how these forces were not trained men but had a belief that through hard work anything is possible. And that leads to what for me is the most powerful part of "Cast a Giant Shadow" and that is watching civilians, many of which were old, building a road up the side of a mountain so that they can bypass a fortified town and get supplies to Jerusalem whilst under fire and in the dark. It isn't the fanciest of film making but it is some of the most powerful and it leaves a lasting impression.
What this all boils down to is that "Cast a Giant Shadow" is certainly an entertaining movie and one which even if you have no interest in 20th century history will keep you involved. But whilst it has some powerful scenes it didn't blow me away in the way I expected it to.