Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

VIDEO ESSAY: War Movies for People Who Don't Like War Movies

by Kevin B. Lee
May 27, 2012 3:55 PM
  • |

There’s no such thing as a truly anti-war film, Francois Truffaut once said. By depicting the adventure and thrill of combat, war movies can’t help but glorify their subject, fueling fantasies of spectacular, heroic violence. It’s a case where the sensational beauty of cinema works against our humanist impulses rather than for them. I’m not a fan of war movies as a general matter of principle. But in recent years, I’ve seen a couple of films with unique approaches to the war movie, and that bring humanity back into focus.

Originally published on Fandor Keyframe. For a full transcript visit Keyframe.

Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog, Video Essayist for Fandor Keyframe, and contributor to Roger Follow him on Twitter.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Ryan | May 27, 2012 10:23 PMReply

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Thin Red Line.

  • Kevin | May 31, 2012 5:38 PM

    At one point TRL was one of my all time favorite films, even as my position on war movies was evolving into one of flat objection on principle. Especially compared to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN which came out that same year, TRL seemed like a film that could elevate the war movie beyond merely reproducing the visceral sensory thrill of combat for entertainment value, and take it to a level of philosophical contemplation that I had never quite seen before in this genre.

    Today my perspective on the film is more tempered, and has something to do with my tremendous disappointment after watching THE NEW WORLD with its ridiculously patronizing depiction of Native Americans in the service of some grand bombastic myth of humankind and discovery. In retrospect I could see the Polynesian natives and Japanese soldiers in TRL amounting to symbols rather than humans. (This is the fatal flaw of most war movies, no matter how well-made they may be: that they insist on reinforcing the one-sided perspective of soldiers in combat in order to exploit the audience's primal sense of terror under threat of death, like some cheap horror movie. In this way the war film forfeits its cinematic potential to break through the barriers of a reality that mostly reinforces our cultural and political solipsism. In this way DW Griffith - the one who made INTOLERANCE, not BIRTH OF A NATION, mind - is still ahead of our time.)

Follow Us

Latest Tweets

Follow us

Most "Liked"