1 January 2006 | SgtSlaughter
Film is Wonderful; Only Minor Flaws Distract
When you get right down to it, war is a pointless human endeavor. All it causes is death and destruction. When we use war to achieve a right event (such as the defeat of Nazism in World War II), it was often avoidable had some other peaceful action been taken earlier. Proper, humane treatment of Germany after World War I may have prevented the outbreak of World War II. "None But the Brave" is an earnest attempt to show that the differences between men in war can often be settled peacefully, and working together for mutual survival often assures peace and serenity.
The plot of the movie is rather straightforward. A plane carrying about a dozen American soldiers crashes on a small Pacific atoll, where the remnants of a Japanese garrison have been all but forgotten by their superiors. About equal in numbers, the two opposing parties attempt to fight it out, but then realize the hopelessness of confrontation, and instead form a peace in order to share fresh water, food, and medical supplies.
The two leads, Clint Walker ("The Dirty Dozen") and Tatsuya Mihashi ("Tora! Tora! Tora!") both shine in their roles. The two men are parallels: both have a sense of patriotism and devotion to their nation and the men under their command, yet both are humanists who see no point in destruction. During the truce, the two form a true friendship, coming to understand their respective backgrounds and personal life stories with respect and admiration for each other.
The supporting cast is generally filled with clichéd, familiar characters (a tough sergeant, a grizzled corporal, some inexperienced grunts, etc.), but the story really isn't about them. Tommy Sands ("The Longest Day") plays a green lieutenant out for blood, and his acting is far over the top. There's a story behind this, and it's unfortunate that his delivery strongly distracts from the story. Frank Sinatra has little to do, as he was busy in the director's chair, but there is a great extended scene revolving around a leg amputation where his limited dialog and great facial expressions more than deliver the goods. When Sinatra had substantial screen time, he used it well, but unfortunately he didn't give himself enough to do and his character is basically a waste of energy.
Director of Photography Harold Lipstein ("Hell is for Heroes") does a fantastic job with the Pacific locations. The steamy tropical jungle truly comes alive, especially during a fabulous scene in which a monsoon sweeps over the island. Sinatra's direction lacks flair, and most of the action sequences are straightforward and bland. The firefight revolving around a Japanese boat is also grim and gritty; and the final confrontation between the Japanese and Americans really delivers, mostly because of the blatant anti-war message which comes about 30 seconds after the shooting stops.
The movie features a rather boring score by John Williams (who was just starting to break into writing film scores in 1965; most of his work had been in television prior to this film). Eiji Tsuburaya (of "Godzilla") fame supervised the special effects work, and unfortunately, I have always found his work below-par when compared to some of the innovations Hollywood could afford during this period. There's a scene in which two model planes on strings blast away at each other in the same manner toy airplanes fired rockets at monsters as they attacked Tokyo. I can understand the Japanese cast and crew, since this was a joint production, but someone else should have been running the special effects department.
These are just minor nitpicks. Sinatra does a very good job directing this film and he has taken far too much criticism from other reviewers. The statements made in this film are bold and honest, and there are many moving moments. The final act is a brilliant exercise depicting the waste and futility of war. If everyone could not only watch, but understand the philosophy portrayed in this movie, perhaps the world would be a more peaceful place.