Friday, March 28, 2008

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Allan Dwan's Sands of Iwo Jima is a slightly better than average WWII military propaganda film. I have definitely seen better, and I have definitely seen worse.

Although John Wayne is the top bill in this film, he is not the lead role. That honor goes to John Agar who plays Pfc. Peter Conway. Conway doesn't consider himself to be a military man; he joined for the sole reason that it's a bit of a family tradition.

John Wayne is Sgt. John Stryker. Stryker is a strictly by the books man, and pushes his unit hard. His men don't care for him too much, but they respect him. Stryker knows he isn't a popular man, but that's not important to him. What is important to him is that his men be ready when it is time to hit the front lines.

Conway immediately dislikes Stryker from the moment Stryker informs him that Conway's father was Stryker's CO and the best CO he's ever had. Conway wasn't fond of his father; he was always a disappointment in his father's eyes. Not strong enough. Every time Conway looks at Stryker, or hears Stryker speak it's like his father is speaking.

As the film heads along and as you get to know Stryker better you come to see that he's not as bad a guy as he seems. His tough guy attitude is really just a veneer that he puts on in order to keep his squad on edge and in tip-top shape. Slowly but surely the men start to realize this as they head into battle.

While none of these propaganda films will come close to the quality of today's war films, Sands of Iwo Jima certainly tries and gets a lot of help from John Wayne who puts in a superb performance. Unfortunately that cannot be said for his peers, whose wooden acting is sub-par to say the least. Allan Dwan does his job, there really isn't any style to his direction he just shot the shots his producer told him to. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to see Sands of Iwo Jima, but if it's on TV then by all means watch it. Overall 2.5/4 Stars Grade = C

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