Monday, April 21, 2014
Sands of Iwo Jima. B+
One of the great prolific directors in Hollywood's first half century or so, Allan Dwan was a tough-guy filmmaker who could make just about anything. He doesn't have any bonafide classic material in his filmography, but he worked with a lot of really talented people and did it in just about every genre. As far as his most well-regarded films go, one would probably have to look at 1949's Sands of Iwo Jima, a John Wayne war picture that was as much a vehicle for Wayne as it was an ad for the marines. It's a pretty good movie, with all the requisite supporting players, conflicts, moral dilemmas (Wayne plays a predictably stern career sergeant who slowly gains the admiration of his troops), and big time action footage one would expect from a b&w war film. In an age when the average war movie is meant to shock in its realism and brutality, Dwan's film is predictably tame in its visceral impact, yet its broader themes concerning wartime mentality and public duty are as strongly presented as any contemporary members of the genre. It's all pretty predictable stuff, especially for anyone who's educated on the Iwo Jima saga, but one would be hard pressed to come across an old Hollywood war film as tightly structured and well-fashioned as this one is.