Worn out by the constant pressure of leading his platoon Lieutenant Benson (Robert Ryan - The Tall Men) knows he needs to hold it together for the sake of his physically and psychologically exhausted men as they find themselves in enemy territory. To make matters even tougher the platoon end up being joined by Sergeant Montana (Aldo Ray - Battle Cry) from another platoon whose only concern is helping his shell shocked Colonel (Robert Keith). With the enemy, snipers and land mines to contend with Benson and Montana despite disliking each other must find a way to work together to lead the men to safety.
I will tell you now that if you are not gripped by "Men in War" within minutes of it starting you might as well move on and find another war movie to watch. In those opening few minutes we are dumped in to Korea and placed in with this platoon. You immediately become aware that war has affected each soldier differently as Lieutenant Benson is exhausted probably from lack of sleep whilst young Cpl. Zwickley is struggling with fear whilst another soldier is jittery from being constantly alert to the enemy. There is no music during this; just the deadly silence of a group of exhausted soldiers in enemy territory resting for a few moments and it makes it tingle with atmosphere
That tingling continues as Benson leads his men and along the way they meet Montana and the shell shocked Colonel and we get the issues between Benson and Montana as their personalities clash. In a minimal way it is as exciting as anything you will ever come across thanks to that deep attention on the tension between Benson and Montana rather than what is going on around them with director Anthony Mann just flavouring the look enough with camera angles to keep you interested but never distracting you from the main focus.
The thing is that there is action and all the things you expect from a war movie be it a Korean one as this is or a WWII but instead are attention is on the characters and how the situation has affected each of them and of course how they interact especially when it comes to Benson and Montana.
On the subject of Benson and Montana "Men in War" features Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray at their best, providing colour to cliche characters so that they are both more than just tired soldiers with different opinions. They both make their characters interesting as do all the actors with Vic Morrow standing out as the young Cpl. Zwickley who we meet sitting under a tree unable to control his shaking as fear gets the better of him.
What this all boils down to is that "Men in War" is a top war movie because of its focus on the characters heightening the tension rather than delivering big cliche action and warn out story lines done a dozen times before.