Selleck Leads the Way
I'm no historian, I admit that history lessons at school bored me to death and as such my knowledge of World War II and the various important elements of it is not what you would expect from a Brit. The irony of this is that I know my movie history and I know that Laurence Olivier's "Henry V" was released in November 1944. Why do I mention this? Well whilst watching "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" they show a scene of the men watching "Henry V" sometime before the actual D-Day landings on the 6th of June 1944. As such, and I must mention this is not the only historical inaccuracy, that "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" is not a 100% factual recreation of the lead up to D-Day.
Having said that it seems that whilst this is a movie which details the lead up to D-Day as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower found himself not only having to deal with the magnitude of what they were planning but also the egos of various military leaders is really a movie about the portrayal of Eisenhower. As such and as a Brit who doesn't know their history I have to say that it is one heck of an interesting movie, so interesting that it made me want to know more about Eisenhower.
But the thing is that as a Brit "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" feels like a very typical patriotic American movie. What I mean is that part of the focus of the movie is the battles Eisenhower has with other military leaders, most significantly Gen. Montgomery as they were opposed to him being in control and his calculated style, but these other military leaders are portrayed as over the top caricatures. Maybe Gen. Montgomery was pompous and had a lust for fighting but it seems over the top, too much like that with out Eisenhower's calculated leadership the war would have been lost. I'm not saying that wasn't the case but it does go over the top in the portrayal of those who disagreed with Eisenhower and his plans.
What this does do is also mean that Tom Selleck's performances as Gen. Eisenhower is stunning, not just for the fact we see Selleck with no moustache and a shaved head but his actual acting. I don't know how accurately Selleck portrayed Eisenhower but I do know that he delivered a character a man who whilst a leader who took on the big decisions was not a man who relished the fight. The Eisenhower which Selleck portrays is a thinking man, a man who will not be rushed or intimidated and an everyman who felt never more at home than when chatting with the troops. It is part of the reason why "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" is so enthralling because Selleck's portrayal is fascinating and why as someone who doesn't care for history felt the urge to know more about Eisenhower.
The other reason why "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" works so well is thanks to director Robert Harmon we have a stunning looking movie. From the authentic look to the well crafted scenes with rooms flooded by light as doors open it is brilliant. And considering that this is a war movie where we never see or hear a gun fired it is thanks to Harmon's direction that it works. It also down to Harmon that Selleck has the space to deliver such a fascinating characterisation and interestingly following this movie Harmon and Selleck would go on to work together in the hugely popular Jesse Stone series of movies.
What this all boils down to is that "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" is a fascinating movie and a cut above the usual made for TV movie. As a Brit is does feel that some of the characterisations are too over the top but the most important one, that of Tom Selleck's portrayal of Gen. Eisenhower is first rate and along with Robert Harmon's direction is why "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" is such a fascinating and enthralling movie.