War films have a long and varied history, stretching back to the end of the First World War itself.
Monday 11th November 2013 marks the 95th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the conflict. It’s impact was so profound that, for a while, it was believed that violence on such a scale could never occur again.
Over the decades, these films – understandably solemn in tome – have been gradually drenched by those depicting the Second World War. Similarly, the heyday began no sooner than that fighting had time to end and enjoyed years of constant success. Films like Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone followed the heroic exploits of gentleman officers, often mixing romance and adventure with a curious sense of optimism, epitomised by The Great Escape, which has probably been shown on Christmas Day more times than anything else ever committed to celluloid. It became a formula, too, for paperback writers, with committed heroes in shadowy situations dominating the market as recently as the death of spymaster Tom Clancy. It’s only in the last few years that grit and grime and moral ambiguity have become fashionable, digestible viewing.
Then there are the games, comic books and other media that have in some way twisted two of the world’s darkest and most violent periods into a near-endless fountain of creativity, right into sci-fi territory and back again (see Hellboy, Frankenstein’s Army etc).
If you haven’t the time to do anything else this Remembrance Sunday, have no service to go to or aren’t satisfied with the safety-stick paper poppy, find a favourite war film – there has to be one – settle in to watch and remember what really went on before we had websites.