It's when a "Catching Up" opportunity like this comes along that I realize how much I regret not spending more time in front of these black and white classics, growing up. I was kind of a stubborn brat about it, and "black and white" pretty much meant "boring". I had video games to play and cartoons to watch instead. It sadly wasn't until rather recently when I started to expand my horizons a little and realize that "black and white" can more often than not mean "good story telling, strong characters, great performances and classic moments". 'The Longest Day', a 3-hour war movie I once avoided like the plague, is one of these films.
The premise is really quite simple. This is a dramatic and beautifully shot portrayal of the events of June 6th, 1944 - D-Day. The characters portrayed throughout the film are often played by big, Hollywood named actors. These include the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Paul Anka, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, and that's just to name a few. To add to that point, and perhaps more importantly, the characters are spread out nationalities and soldiers representing pretty much every country involved with the Invasion of Normandy. The Americans, the British, the French, the Germans, you name it. This film depicts all sides, and in a surprisingly deep way. Even the Nazis are more humanized here than in most American war films.
While the actors' performances were all great, what wowed me the most about this film was just how it was shot. With it's wide shots depicting various battles, often lasting for quite some time, it's a movie that holds up very nicely today. If you're like me and a sucker for the single-take action shot, this one does it beautifully! It won two Oscars, for "black and white cinematography" and "special effects", and it totally shows why. It was further nominated for "art direction", "film editing" and "best picture" that year, losing them to 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and 'Lawrence of Arabia' twice, respectively (two more movies to put on my list).
At the end of the day, this probably is the best depiction I've seen so far of D-Day (to be fair, I haven't seen many). I know, being a 'Saving Private Ryan' fan, that's gotta be sacrilege, but there are a few things to keep in mind here. First and foremost, this is an American film that depicts everyone almost equally, and not just the Americans. On top of that, this manages to be a G-rated movie with no blood or gore, very unlike 'Private Ryan', but it STILL manages to get across the horrors that took place that fateful day. Not just from the beaches, but from the skies and ground as well. It just covers so much.
I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. It's a bold statement, but this movie wowed me so much that it may very well be my new favorite war movie. Unlike a lot of modern war films, you can rewatch this somewhat comfortably. A movie like 'Schindler's List' for example is a great film, but there's so much discomfort behind it, a lot of people will tell you they only ever needed to see it once. Being rated G and depicting all sides of one day, this could very well be an annual Remembrance Day revisit for yours truly. If you have little ones taking a history class, or you ARE a history class, showing a movie about D-Day, look no further than here... You just might have to show it over the course of a few classes is all.