GIMME FIVE: World War II Movies

BY ASHLEY KOWALEWSKI

Monuments Men hits theatres this week and this particular writer is rushing to the theatre to go watch. No, it’s not quite a war movie per se, but it is set in WWII and follows the story of a group of men (not soldiers) who were on a mission to steal all of the stolen works of art and monuments that the Nazis had claimed. As someone who studied art history, you realize how different everything would have been–for art, culture, tourism, etc.–if these guys hadn’t gone and done what they did. Plus, it has a really wicked cast and frankly every time George Clooney and Matt Damon (my future husband!!) get together it’s pure magic–plus, of course, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett.

5) Pearl Harbor

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I remember when this came out–John Hartnett was still a relevant figure in the acting community and Ben Affleck hadn’t yet subjected the world to the horror that was Gigli. It’s a classic tale, really–boy has best friend, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy goes to war, friend thinks he’s dead so shacks up with girl, boy comes back. So awful. Apart from the love triangle that carries throughout much of the movie, Pearl Harbor also circulates around the massive Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which spawned the US’ involvement in the war. There are a lot of explosions and war stuff and it’s actually a really good flick–particularly if you were a fan of Josh Hartnett.

4) The Pianist

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By far one of the longest and slowest-moving war movies that I’ve ever watched, this is surprisingly one of my favourites. Adrien Brody plays a Polish-Jewish pianist-turned-refugee during WWII that is hiding from the Nazis for the better part of the movie, staying in various peoples’ homes or walking from bombed building to bomb building, all in the hope of surviving the war and the Nazi reign. He battles malnutrition, illness, loneliness and of course Nazi brutality at certain points, though never loses hope. One of the most gut-wrenching stories in my opinion because it so closely follows one person’s journey throughout the war.

3) Inglorious Basterds

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If you’ve been keeping up with the Filles, you know that Quentin Tarantino is unanimously considered a cinematic deity of sorts, so when a theatre in Toronto was randomly playing this one chilly Wednesday night, we took it as an opportunity to worship the work of the miraculous Tarantino get together. This is most definitely a WWII movie, plus with gritty Tarantino flair. When one Nazi soldier (played by the formidable Christoph Waltz) kills a Jewish family, with the exception of one young girl, the whole plot is set in motion. With both the Americans and and this now young woman planning to blow up the Nazis, it’s really a woven web of scheming and a question of who is going to get the Nazis first. With Brad Pitt (and his accent), Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender among others all on their A-game, this movie is funnier than it is heartwarming, but then again, did you expect anything less from Tarantino?

2) Schindler’s List 

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One of the most iconic movies set during WWII and The Holocaust, Schindler’s List tells the story of a German businessman who saved thousands of Polish-Jewish people by employing them to work in one of his factories, rather than leaving them to eventually die in various concentration camps. Though this movie was made in the early 90s, it’s done in black and white (an attempt to make the movie seem “timeless”), with the only colour in the entire movie coming from a little girl’s red coat. With Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes at the helm this emotional flick, it showed how little was done to help the Jews in their time of need and how one man managed to save even a fraction.

1) Saving Private Ryan

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The basic plot of this flick is that during the battle of Normandy, three soldiers (all brothers) are killed in action, but upon learning that there was a fourth brother that might still be alive, a group of soldiers sets off to save the last brother. Naturally, since this is the day before the end of the war, a lot happens that creates many obstacles between the group of soldiers and Private Ryan. It’s arguable that this should have won Best Picture that year (it was up against other heavy-hitters like Shakespeare in Love and two war movies The Thin Red Line and Life is Beautiful), and really became one of the most notable wartime movies on the market. With a huge cast (all equally fantastic) of Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti and Matt Damon, just to name a few, I don’t doubt that you’ve already seen this several times, but if you haven’t I can’t help but question your sanity.

Honourable mention goes to the Oscar-winning  La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful). An Italian movie about a Jewish family who is sent to a concentration camp that absolutely warms your freaking heart and is as funny as it is sad. I defy you not to cry at the end.

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