‘The Dirty Dozen’ Review: Welcome to War

Posted in The Screening Room by - August 06, 2015

I’ll be upfront, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies; frankly I find them incredibly derivative and by the numbers. That being said, I enjoyed The Dirty Dozen more than I thought I was going to, primarily due to the strong performances of all the actors. The film is more about the interactions between the characters as opposed to painting the screen with explosions and action. The movie has influenced many films since its release, particularly Inglorious Basterds. What’s even more impressive is that the film is based off a book, which was based off the actions of a real life “Filthy Thirteen”.

The plot follows Major John Reisman, played by the gruff Lee Marvin, who is tasked with training and accompanying  a group of the Army’s convicts for a suicide mission to a chateau in France. These convicts are the worst of the worst, with many of them slated to be executed days after the squad is put together. The notable faces in the squad are John Cassavettes, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Jim Brown. Most of the film focuses on them training and proving themselves to the upper brass, with the actual mission serving as the climax of the feature. The interactions between the dozen is what drives the film, and their unique personalities outshine most of the action. The climax of the film features the dozen infiltrating the chateau and killing all the Nazis inside.

The film’s strength is its ensemble cast, with the real standouts being Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. Marvin’s turn as Reisman holds the film together with his gruff, unapologetic demeanor towards the dozen, but ultimate loyalty to the cause. His character is similar to Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds, but less of a caricature and more grounded in reality. He has no interest in training the dozen, but does so for the good of the country. Bronson plays Wladislaw, the only prisoner who can speak German, which comes in handy for their infiltration. As with Bronson’s role in last month’s Once Upon a Time in the West, Wladislaw is the least boisterous of the bunch, playing him more calculating and reserved. It’s so similar to Harmonica that it was a welcome sight to see Bronson playing the strong silent type again. Some praise also goes to John Cassavettes as the wildcard of the film, portraying the unstable anti-authoritarian Franko. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie, and he is fantastic as the deranged yet loyal inmate. 

The Dirty Dozen is not your typical war movie, and that’s what kept me engaged for it’s lengthy two and a half hour run time. The performances are absolutely fantastic, the action is suitable, and it’s the first war movie I’ve liked in a long time. Check it out if the have the time. It’s well worth the watch. 

Final Say: Watch It

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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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