I'm a woman. War Movies are not generally a first choice pick for my Netflix queue. For Memorial Day Weekend, however, here is my list of surprisingly good finds in this tough on the heart genre.
1. Unbreakable -This true story of an Olympian who survives a Japanese POW Camp, by director Angela Jolie, was the perfect WWII film to watch with my older kids. The war scenes were pretty sedate, which is important to me because I've got a sensitive heart. The film's optimistic message of Hope gave me lots of meaty topics to talk about with my family. The scene where the memory of one Mom's Italian cooking keeps 3 dehydrated men alive on a thin raft in the middle of a hostile ocean is one of my favorite movie images of all time. This is a great choice to watch to honor all men who died in WWII.
(If you are a reader, the book, "Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," by local D.C. author Laura Hillenbrand is a great continuation of this movie).
2. Fury This WWII film is more intense in its depiction of battle. This is a movie that I won't watch with my kid. I did feel like the violent shots were always "for a good purpose." There is also plenty of dialogue and good character development, something I find critical whenever the majority of characters are all wearing the same uniform. Brad Pitt stars in this movie and there is a haunting scene where he brings fresh eggs to a civilian enemy's home in the middle of Germany. There was something about seeing the image of men taking time out from war to eat brunch with proper table manners that really made me rethink my usually boring job of cooking dinner for my family.
(Notes: There was one scene with a gross war injury where I shut my eyes, and there is implied sexual contact between unmarried adults after that awesome brunch scene I loved. There is obviously a lot of violence and I think I remember a lot of cussing. For some reason, I have a much higher threshold for cussing in War movies, rather than other movie types. I feel like that is the price for realism since I would also probably swear if my life was in danger constantly.)
3. The Hurt Locker
This movie had much more intense drama. The main character is a solider who serves as an expert at defusing bombs in Iraq. This movie's direct, Katheryn Bigelow, was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. Her work is outstanding in this film. This movie is worth seeing, even if War Films aren't your usual cup of Chai because we all need to support women in film!
This movie has so little battle scenes that it hardly qualifies as a War Movie. It does have Art, shot after shot of glorious European Medieval Paintings and Sculptures. If you missed Art History 100 in college, here is your make-up quiz. Also, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett have terrific scenes fighting in French. If you can't handle normal War Movie far, this really is your go to pick for Memorial Day weekend.
Films to Let Your Boyfriend/Husband/Male Best Friend See Alone
1. American Sniper I watched this film because I usually love Bradley Cooper's work and this film had a lot of Oscar buzz. This movie felt like a boring Western to me. There were lots of wide angle "atmosphere" shots in the desert, lots of shooting scenes, and shallow character development. I didn't tear up until the last real pictures of Chris Kyle's funeral. I think the real life characters have an interesting story. I'm eager to read the biography of Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and his wife new book, American Wife.
2. Bridge Over The River Kwai--One of these days I'll watch my Army Reserve Husband's favorite WWII flick with him, but I secretly hope I get to dodge that Netflix choice for another year.
3. Saving Private Ryan I think I'm the only one of my friends who hated this ground breaking film when it came out. There is that ever-lasting jerky camera shot that actually made my less sympathetic to my grandfather's first hand description of storming the beach at Normandy. There is also the pessimistic message that ethics are useless in war time. If you sit through this movie a second time, I think it counts as penance.