Tuesday, 22 September 2015

No.241 : When Trumpets Fade

When Trumpets Fade at the IMDb

‘TV Movie’ is often a solid pointer to the quality you can expect from a film but this HBO production was impressive in terms of its cast, scale and effects.

The film is book-ended with scenes of soldiers carrying an injured comrade from the battle field. In between the horrors of the Hurtgen Forest campaign are explored through the eyes of Manning, played by Ron Eldard - he was the nice one in ‘Drop Dead Fred’.

Manning is a lowly private who cares only for surviving the war. His platoon has been decimated and he is carrying his fallen comrade Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) on his back. We know it’s a pointless gesture as Donovan has what looks like a pink jellyfish stuck on the side of his head and soon Manning has to make a terrible choice.

Back at base his commanders recognize his battlefield skills - basically staying alive - and promote him to Sergeant in charge of a group of new recruits. Manning drills them mercilessly hoping to keep both them and himself alive. Things come to a head when he is charged with capturing a bridge with the promise of a medical discharge if he’s successful. Will he win his discharge at any cost and will a battlefield promise hold any weight anyway?

I wasn’t expecting much from this 90 minute TV movie but it delivered on almost all fronts. There were a lot of familiar clichés and some sections were virtual retreads of the episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ that covered the same engagement. Of course if you have a flamethrower it has to explode and there were a couple of inventive scenes such as the walk through the mine field which kept things interesting.

The cast was excellent although some big named players such as Timothy Olyphant were in virtual ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ roles. It was also a waste to have Bobby Carnivale in the cast and have him as an officer’s assistant rather than some murderous gung-go maverick that we know he does so well.

Ron Eldard was OK in the lead but I wasn’t totally buying his fragile mental state and his self preservation bit was incongruous with his actions when helping out his platoon. I guess he’s a mixed up character but it’s hard to pull for someone when you don’t know where their motivations lie.

For a TV film there is a fuck load of swearing and some of the deaths and dismemberments were up there on the ‘Private Ryan’ scale of gory. The battle scenes were well executed with a well drilled cast of dozens doing well in a fantastically realised battlefield full of debris and body parts.

I don’t think the film had an awful lot new to say about the horrors of war, and as a character study it was lacking too, but overall this was an enjoyable spectacle and well worth a look.

Best Bit : Bridge Offensive
‘W’ Rating 17/23

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