Enemy at the Gates

  • Directors: Jean Jacques Annaud
  • Producers: Jean Jacques Annaud, John D Schofield
  • Writers: William Craig, Jean Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard
  • Genres: Drama, History, Thriller, War
  • Actors: Jude Law, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins, Gabriel Thompson

The story focuses on the exploits of Vassili Zaitsev (a character based on the real-life Vasily Zaytsev and played by Jude Law), a Ural peasant who was taught how to hunt and shoot by his grandfather, now fighting on the Eastern Front of World War II. A Red Army soldier, he is traveling in a train’s cattle truck along with other soldiers and civilians, where he notices a young woman (Rachel Weisz) before the train is converted into a military convoy headed for Stalingrad, a city that is now under attack by the German Army. Upon arriving on the city’s outskirts, the soldiers attempt to cross the Volga on unprotected river barges, bombarded by German Stuka dive bombers and artillery, resulting in many casualties. When the survivors disembark on the other side, only half of them are given Mosin-Nagant rifles; while the rest, among them Vassili, are given only a five round clip of ammunition. As their comrades are shot down, the men with the clips are to use the dead men’s rifles. In a hopeless charge against the well-armed Germans, the Red Army soldiers are massacred both by the enemy, and by several Soviet NKVD machine gunners who cut down anyone who attempts to retreat.

Two months later, it is revealed that Stalingrad is liberated and Zaitsev finds Tania in a field hospital, safely evacuated and recovering.

Der Tunnel

  • Directors: Roland Suso Richter
  • Producers: Nico Hofmann, Ariane Krampe
  • Writers: Johannes W Betz
  • Genres: Action, Drama, History, Thriller
  • Actors: Heino Ferch, Nicolette Krebitz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Sebastian Koch

The central character of the film is Harry Melchior, played by Heino Ferch and based on the real tunneler, Hasso Herschel. Despite being imprisoned for several years for his role in the June 1953 uprising in East Germany, Melchior competes for and wins the national swimming championship in 1961. With the aid of a false passport and disguise, Harry succeeds in fleeing to West Berlin. His best friend, Matthis (played by Sebastian Koch) manages to escape through the underground sewer, but Matthis’s pregnant girlfriend Carola (played by Claudia Michelsen) was not so lucky and remained in East Berlin. Harry’s beloved sister, Lotte (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) and her husband and daughter are ambivalent about leaving the confines of the GDR.

Committed to getting their loved ones out of the GDR but knowing that ground routes are heavily guarded, Harry and Matthis have the idea of going underground. Matthis is an engineer by training. They link up with a small circle of others, initially Vittorio ‘Vic’ Constanza (played by Mehmet Kurtulus) and Fred van Klausnitz (played by Felix Eitner). They find an unused factory building close to the Wall that has ample underground space. They are eventually joined by Fritzi Scholz (played by Nicolette Krebitz), whose fiancé Heiner is also trapped in the east.

Finally the pieces are in all place for the planned escape of about 30 people. Word is spread by surreptitious means, though the Stasi are watching closely. They go to the home of Fred’s widowed mother to take her into custody, but she takes her own life first. Carola has admitted to Lotte that she has been an informant but swears she can now be trusted. In a ruse that means leaving her baby with Lotte’s family, she leads her Stasi tail to a remote location far from the actual escape site. Fritzi has crossed the border with a fake passport and Harry has entered through the tunnel. Surprising a border guard, Harry takes his uniform, steel helmet and gun, and blends into the troops swarming through the area. The would-be escapees gather in a café across from the building where the tunnel ends, and Fritzi gradually escorts them over. Tense moments ensue as Colonel Krüger closes in, and pursues the escapees through the tunnel. A sign has been erected marking the boundary of the French sector of West Berlin, and they have the political sense to know they can go no further.

Glory

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Freddie Fields
  • Writers: Kevin Jarre
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher

Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) leads his company of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in an attack on Confederates posted along the Hagerstown Pike at the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. The regiment’s Lieutenant Colonel (Dwight Wilder) is killed immediately in front of him, and the attack is beaten back with heavy losses. Shaw is wounded slightly in the neck, falls between two dead soldiers, and passes out. He is awakened by a black gravedigger named John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). Later, while on leave in Boston, Shaw (whose father was a wealthy and socially prominent abolitionist) is offered command of the first all black regiment authorized to be raised as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 54th Massachusetts. After some hesitation, he agrees, and asks his childhood friend, Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), to be his second in command. Their first volunteer is another one of Shaw’s friends, an educated, free black man named Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher).

They soon have hundreds of men joining the regiment, including John Rawlins the gravedigger, a proud escaped slave named Trip (Denzel Washington), and a shy, stuttering, free black man named Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy). While traveling to the camp, Sharts asks Thomas to teach him how to read. Once at camp, Thomas, Rawlins, Trip, and Sharts all share one tent along with a mute drummer boy. Immediately, Thomas’s and Trip’s relationship gets off to a bad start as they disagree over sleeping space in the tent. Trip ridicules Thomas’s educated and refined manner and, subsequently, Thomas mistakenly patronizes Trip, setting off a pattern of animosity between the two.

The final credits roll against the background of Saint-Gaudens’s memorial to Shaw and his men that stands today on Boston Common.

Flags of Our Fathers

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: James Bradley, Ron Powers, William Broyles Jr, Paul Haggis
  • Genres: Action, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Neal McDonough, Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery

The story focuses on seven US Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, Sgt. Mike Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Hank Hansen, and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski, as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John “Doc” Bradley.

In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii. They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats. The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jima, located less than 700 miles from the Japanese mainland. As Captain Severance puts it, they will be fighting on Japanese soil, and will expect tough resistance. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the US Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. On the night before the landings, Mike is put in charge of second platoon.

The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft and meet no resistance. Ralph, aka “Iggy”, suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders, as do most of the Marines. After several tense minutes the Marines advance forward and the Japanese open fire. The battle is extremely intense, and the Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. After several attempts, Second Platoon takes out a Japanese pillbox which was pinning them down. They advance forward, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secure. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross. Finally, the mountain is secure. For the next four nights, the Marines take cover in foxholes as Japanese soldiers charge through the mist.

In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block’s family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon’s father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy’s mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are no longer offered to him. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1995, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.

Seven Years in Tibet

  • Directors: Jean Jacques Annaud
  • Producers: Jean Jacques Annaud, Iain Smith, John H Williams
  • Writers: Heinrich Harrer, Becky Johnston
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, Danny Denzongpa

The introduction shows the young Dalai Lama receiving gifts from Tibetan monks. One gift he receives, an ornate music box, has special meaning to him, as he is still a young child.

The progress of Heinrich Harrer through India and Tibet on his trek across the high plateau to Lhasa is interwoven with the story of the young Dalai Lama growing into an 8 year old boy who becomes the spiritual leader of Tibet, with a thirst for western knowledge and later into an adolescent. The Dalai Lama is portrayed by three different actors as he grows up.

Harrer (Pitt) and his pregnant wife Ingrid (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) are briefly shown being driven to the train station in Graz, for Harrer’s departure on an expedition to Nanga Parbat. It becomes evident that Ingrid resents his departure. At the station, Harrer barges through the crowds, dragging his wife by the hand and showing his resentment of Peter Aufschnaiter’s selection as leader of the expedition.

Harrer at the train station in 1939 appears hostile to the Nazi Party, taking their flag with reluctance. The real-life Heinrich Harrer admitted he had Nazi sympathies at the time which he later regretted. Harrer’s arrogance and self-sufficiency become apparent as he sits by himself on the train journey to India.

Harrer bids farewell to Aufschnaiter and Pema and returns to Austria in 1951 to visit his son Rolf, now a young boy. Although his son initially refuses to see him, Harrer leaves the musical box as a gift for him and watches him lovingly from the crack in the door. In the film finale, Harrer gradually comes to know the son he has thought about all the years while he was in Tibet and trains him like himself in the art of climbing mountains. Having reached the top of a mountain, Harrer is shown with a Tibetan flag planted beside him at the peak.

Ip Man

  • Directors: Wilson Yip
  • Producers: Raymond Wong
  • Writers: Edmond Wong
  • Genres: Action, Biography, History
  • Actors: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Lam Ka Tung

Ip Man is based on the life Ip Man, the grandmaster of Wing Chun martial arts and master of martial arts film superstar Bruce Lee. This film is the first important record of Ip Man’s life. [1]

The film is set in the 1930s in Foshan, a hub of Chinese martial arts, where various schools actively recruit disciples and compete against each other. Although the Wing Chun expert Ip Man is the most accomplished martial artist in Foshan, he is unassuming and keeps a low profile. As an independently wealthy man, he feels no need to accept any disciples and instead spends his days training, meeting with friends, and spending time with his family–although his wife is often resentful of the time he spends on training and discussing martial arts with friends and colleagues. Though not a professional martial artist, Ip is respected due to skills he displays in friendly, closed-door competitions with local masters. Ip Man further enhances his reputation in the beginning of the movie when he defeats an aggressive, rude, but highly skilled Northern master, Jin Shanzhao, thus upholding the regional pride of fellow Southern Chinese stylists and others in Foshan.

The Japanese invasion in 1937 adversely affects the life of everyone in Foshan. Ip Man’s house is overtaken by the Japanese and used as their headquarters in Foshan. Ip Man and his family lose their wealth and are forced to live in a decrepit house. Desperate to earn money, he accepts work as a coolie at a coal mine to support his family. The Japanese leader Colonel Miura turns out to be an enthusiastic martial artist and sets up an arena for Chinese martial artists to compete with his Karate military trainees. Rice is offered as a reward if the contestant wins. When one of his friends goes missing, Ip Man investigates and discovers the matches. At first disturbed by the spectacle, he is further enraged when he sees a Chinese martial artist executed after he loses such a match. In response, he demands a match with 10 Japanese martial artists at once, and defeats them with ease. His skill arouses the interest of Miura, seeks to learn more about Ip Man and see him fight again.

The Japanese soldiers eventually find Ip Man at the cotton mill. Miura tells Ip Man that his life will be spared if he agrees to instruct the Japanese troops in martial arts. Ip Man refuses and challenges Miura to a match instead, which Miura gladly accepts–both because of his love for the martial arts and because he realizes that refusing the challenge will mean a loss of face for the Japanese and an enormous boost of morale for the occupied Chinese. The match between Ip Man and Miura is a public one in the town square. After an intense fight, Ip Man defeats Miura. Just then, Miura’s deputy Sato opens fire at him. This sparks off a scuffle between the Chinese citizens watching the match and the Japanese soldiers. Ip Man is taken away amidst the chaos. It is later revealed that Ip Man survives and manages to escape to Hong Kong with his family. Ip Man sets up a martial arts school later and teaches Wing Chun to several students, among whom include martial arts film superstar Bruce Lee.

Breaker Morant

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Producers: Matt Carroll
  • Writers: Screenplay, Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens, Bruce Beresford, Story, Kenneth G Ross
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, John Waters, Bryan Brown

Breaker Morant concerns the murder trial of three Australian Army officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers serving in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Lieutenants Harry “Breaker” Morant, Peter Handcock, and George Witton are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner and the subsequent murders of six more. In addition, Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style assassination of a German missionary, the Rev. H.C.V. Hesse. Their defence counsel, J.F. Thomas, has had only one day to prepare their defence.

Lord Kitchener, who ordered the trial, hopes to bring the Boer War to an end with a peace conference. To that end, he uses the Morant trial to show that he is willing to judge his own soldiers harshly if they disobey the rules of war. Although, as Major Thomas mentions in court, there are great complexities associated with charging active-duty soldiers with murder during battle, Kitchener is determined to have a guilty verdict, and the chief of the court, Lt. Colonel Denny, supports him.

The causes and occurrences relating to the trial are developed. Morant’s execution of the Boer prisoners was revenge for the mutilation and death of his friend and commanding officer, Captain Hunt. Enraged by the incident, Morant led an attack on a Boer camp, where a Boer, Visser, wearing Captain Hunt’s khaki battle jacket was captured. Morant had him executed on the spot. (It was later proved that the mutilation of Hunt’s body was done by black witchdoctors, and not Boers as Morant believed, and that Visser did not wear any of Hunt’s clothes.)

A summary at the end of the film reveals what later happens to some of the characters. Major Thomas returns to his native Australia and continues his civilian law practice, which is confined to estate planning and wills. Witton serves three years of his sentence, then is released after a national outcry. In 1907 he writes a book entitled Scapegoats of the Empire, an account of the Breaker Morant affair (it was reprinted in 1982). Witton’s book proves so inflammatory and anti-British that it is suppressed during both world wars.

The Elephant Man

  • Directors: David Lynch
  • Producers: Jonathan Sanger, Stuart Cornfeld, Mel Brooks
  • Writers: Screenplay, Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch, Books, Sir Frederick Treves, Ashley Montagu
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History
  • Actors: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller

Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), a surgeon at the London Hospital, discovers John Merrick (John Hurt) in a Victorian freak show in London’s East End, where he is managed by the brutish Bytes (Freddie Jones). Merrick is so deformed that he must wear a hood and cape when in public. Bytes further claims that his “exhibit” is an imbecile. Treves is professionally intrigued by Merrick’s condition and pays Bytes to bring him to the London Hospital so that he can examine him. He then presents a lecture to his colleagues on Merrick’s disability, dispassionately displaying him as a prize physiological curiosity. Treves draws attention to the oversized deformities of Merrick’s skull; it is his most obvious disability and (as he was so informed by Bytes) also the most life-threatening, as he is compelled to sleep sitting with his head resting upon his knees, as the weight of his skull would asphyxiate him if he were to ever lie down. On Merrick’s return, Bytes beats him so severely that a sympathetic apprentice (Dexter Fletcher) alerts Treves, who attempts to take him back to the hospital. Bytes confronts Treves, accusing him of likewise exploiting Merrick for his own ends, which leads the surgeon to resolve to do what he can to help the unfortunate man.

As the shocked mob backs away, he collapses from illness and exhaustion. Treves, consumed with guilt over Merrick’s plight, takes action against the night porter with the help of Mrs. Mothershead. When the police return Merrick to the hospital, he is reinstated to his rooms. He recovers a little but it is soon clear he is dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As a treat, Mrs. Kemble arranges an evening at the musical theatre, where Merrick is accompanied by his beloved friends: Treves, Mrs Mothershead, Nurse Nora, and HRH The Princess Of Wales. Resplendent in white tie, he rises in the Royal Box to an ovation, having had the performance dedicated to him from Mrs Kemble. That night, back at the hospital, Merrick thanks Treves for all he has done and finishes his model of the nearby church. Imitating one of his sketches on the wall — a sleeping child — he removes the pillows that have allowed him to sleep in an upright position, lies down on his bed and dies, consoled by a vision of his mother.

We Were Soldiers

  • Directors: Randall Wallace
  • Producers: Arne L Schmidt, Jim Lemley, Randall Wallace
  • Writers: Hal Moore, Joseph L Galloway, Randall Wallace
  • Genres: Action, History, War
  • Actors: Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Don Duong, Chris Klein, Jon Hamm, Keri Russell, Barry Pepper, Dylan Walsh

A French Army unit in Vietnam in July 1954 during the First Indochina War is ambushed by soldiers of the Viet Minh. The French fiercly resist and kill many Viet Minh, but most French soldiers are killed and the unit eventually overrun by the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh Senior Lieutenant Nguyễn Hữu An (Don Duong), believing that France will eventually stop sending troops if there are many casualties, orders the execution of all surviving French soldiers.

Eleven years later, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), a dedicated United States Army officer, is deeply committed to training his troops, who are preparing to be sent to Vietnam. The night before their departure, the unit’s officers hold a party to celebrate. Moore learns from a superior officer that his unit will be known as the 1st Battalion / 7th Cavalry regiment.

He is disquieted because the 7th Cavalry regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who were slaughtered at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn. Moore is also dismayed because President Lyndon B. Johnson has decreed that the war would be fought “on the cheap,” without declaring it a national emergency. As a result, Moore believes he will be deprived of his oldest, best-trained soldiers (a formal declaration of war would have meant mobilization and extension of the terms of enlistment for volunteer soldiers) – about 25% of his battalion – just prior to shipping out for Vietnam. Before leaving for Vietnam, Moore delivers a poignant speech to his unit:

At the end of the movie it is revealed that Moore (having been promoted to Colonel) returned home safely after 235 more days of fighting.

Seabiscuit

  • Directors: Gary Ross
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Jane Sindell, Gary Ross
  • Writers: Book, Laura Hillenbrand, Screenplay, Gary Ross
  • Genres: Drama, History, Sport
  • Actors: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Royce D Applegate, William H Macy

The film centers on three men, Red Pollard, Charles S. Howard, and Tom Smith who come together as, respectively, the principle jockey, owner, and trainer of championship horse, Seabiscuit. The story follows the redemption of the three men as they rise from troubled times to achieve fame and success through their association with the horse. Red Pollard was the child of wealthy family which was ruined by the Great Depression. In need of money, the family leaves Red with a horse groom. Eventually becoming a jockey, Red makes extra money through illegal boxing matches, which leave him almost blind in one eye. Charles Howard is shown as a clerk in a bicycle shop when he gets asked by a passing motorist to repair his automobile, a technology which has recently been introduced. Some years later, Howard is the largest car dealer in California and one of the Bay Area’s richest men. However, his life takes a turn for the worse when his son accidentally dies while trying to drive the family car. When Howard is unable to come out of his depression, his wife leaves him. On a trip to Mexico in order to obtain a divorce and to drown his sorrows, he meets Marcela whom he falls in love with and marries. Howard then runs into Tom Smith, a horse trainer who has been living as a homeless during the depression. Seeing Smith tame an aggressive horse, Howard hires him to take care of his newly acquired stable of horses. Later, Smith tries to get a jockey to ride Seabiscuit, but the jockey is frightened off when Seabiscuit rips off a bit of his shirt. Smith then turns to see Red Pollard fighting with other stable boys and see in them similar temperament. Thus, he decides to make him the jockey. The film then follows the three men as they begin to race Seabiscuit. It especially focuses on their efforts to provoke a race with War Admiral, the top race horse in the country. A match race is then decided on the 1st of November at Pimlico racetrack. While they wait for the date to come around and train Seabiscuit, Pollard is asked to exercise a race horse for an old friend. While they are on the track, two of War Admiral’s owner’s men start a tractor suddenly, causing the horse to spook. The horse rears, and Pollard falls off and is dragged along until he crashes into a wall, fracturing his leg. When the doctor reports that he will be unable to jockey again, Red tells Howard to get George Woolf as the jockey. Red then teaches George about Seabiscuit’s handling and mannerisms. Seabiscuit beats War Admiral easily because of a secret that Pollard told George Woolf, which was to hold him head to head with the other horse so he gets ‘a good look at the Admiral’. Afterwards, Seabiscuit is entered in a race at the Santa Anita Race track under George Woolf. While he is racing he gets injured and has to stop. Red Pollard helps him to recover and gets him fit again for racing. The last race is again at the Santa Anita track, and Red Pollard races him this time after putting a special self-made brace on his own leg to keep it stable. George Woolf is also racing, albeit on a difference horse. When Seabiscuit drops to last place and trails the pack of horses, George Woolf trails back to be with Pollard.After a short conversation, Seabiscuit gives Pollard the signal that he is ready to go. Seabiscuit then surges towards the pack of horses and Pollard steers him through them to win the race. The movie ends with Pollard narrating “You know everyone thinks that we found this broken down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t, he fixed us, everyone of us, and I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other too.”