War movies can be tragic, epic, inspiring, enlightening, horrifying, even humbling. Cinema allows us to become immersed in experiences most of us would never wish to face. The SWITCH team have gathered together the most powerful war films streaming right now filled with stories of bravery, endurance and hope.
Akira Kurosawa was a trained artist who would paint a storyboard for his movies, which is why they often look like classical paintings that have started moving, and none more so than his 1985 war epic, 'Ran'. Tatsuya Nakadai plays a 16th-century Japanese King Lear figure who decides to retire and divide his kingdom among his three sons, Taro, Jiro, and Saburo... and then watches as his heirs betray him. Trapped in a small castle, he wears an expression of otherworldly disbelief as his sons' arrows whiz past and wanders around as he's reminded of the ruthless methods that he used to attain power. 'Ran' is so well shot and filmed that it really makes you think about how wonderful cinema can be as a visual medium. The scene that opens the film - a green meadow and brightly-coloured samurai - is immediately striking and I love the mountain backdrop, the ambient sound of birds and the way it sets the stage with peaceful images... before the chaotic hellscape erupts. Then the film gives a raw, direct look into the nature of battle and doesn't shy away from being real. The scale of the action, the incredible uniforms and flags, the siege and the battle in the field which sees oversaturated blood pour out beneath grey, uncaring skies. With the dropping of a Buddhist scroll, 'Ran' leaves you with an incredible final image that makes you feel instead of think... all because of Kurosawa's absolute mastery of sight and sound.
'END OF WATCH'
Every day, a war is waged on the streets of Los Angeles: gang wars and the war on drugs. Neither will ever really be won, but there are still people out there trying, one day at a time, to maybe make a bit of difference. 'End of Watch' is a gritty and brilliantly executed film written and directed by David Ayer starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. It is such a phenomenal accomplishment in filmmaking that I couldn't wait to see what this new voice in cinema did afterwards. As it turned out, he gave the world two of the worst movies ever - 'Bright' and 'Suicide Squad'
- but I still hold on to hope he'll come back around to what made him great.READ OUR REVIEW
'DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB'
There is a nuclear weapons theory called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) which argues that, theoretically, all opposing sides in a war would be deterred from a nuclear strike, with the knowledge that it could lead to mass destruction. Only the great Stanley Kubrick would consider this a reasonable platform for a comedy, and I don't know many other filmmakers who could get away with making a Cold War satire ending in the destruction of humanity. Starring Peter Sellers as Captain Mandrake, President Muffley and the titular character, 'Dr Strangelove' is equal parts scary and hilarious. "You can't fight in here, this is the war room," is just one of numerous examples that typify what kind of a commentary on war this film explores. This film is funny, make no mistake, but it's the uncomfortable realism of the world Kubrick creates that lifts it to frightening. The set design of the war room alone (RIP Sir Ken Adam) makes this 1964 classic one of the greatest films ever made, so if you are in the mood for a war film, this one is sure to please.READ OUR REVIEW
It seems that studio executives and regular audiences alike are pegging Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller 'Tenet' as the big blockbuster that will save the theatrical experience, so now is the perfect time to revisit Nolan's most recent epic. Told over three seperate timelines, 'Dunkirk' recounts the treacherous quest of British soldiers to flee the town of Dunkirk and safely return home during World War II. Nolan's bold choice to tell three stories which all converge on the same time makes for incredible filmmaking, and demonstrates a true understanding that editing doesn't need to undercut tension. Heartthumping, seat-grabbing cinema at its finest.READ OUR REVIEW
Filmed in Australia, 'Hacksaw Ridge' tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who, in World War II, refused to bear arms while saving the lives of 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa. 'Hacksaw Ridge' has everything you look for in a war film - not only is it a true underdog story, but a reminder of the sacrifice of these men. The film is led by Garfield, who more than proves his acting chops and shows he's is an actor we are only going to see more of in future years. The war scenes in the film are a perfect showcase of both practical and visual effects and will make your jaw drop and are standouts in the genre. Also of note is Vince Vaughn's performance as Sergeant Howell; while unusual casting, he perfectly portrays a tough leader, again showing he is more than a comedy guy.READ OUR REVIEW
'A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH'
At the end of the Second World War, beloved filmmaking team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were approached by the British Army to make a film about maintaining comradely between the British and the U.S. armed forces. What they delivered though was one of the most inventive, imaginative and heartfelt statements on war itself; a kind of fairy tale for understanding the devastation of the 20th century. British pilot Peter (David Niven) wakes up on a beach in England after somehow surviving a horrific plane crash, and goes in search of the American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter) who he spoke to just before his plane went down. It turns out though that Peter was
supposed to have died, and a clerical error in Heaven meant that he slipped through. In the film's final act, Peter is forced to stand before a celestial court who must decide on his fate. It's a remarkably whimsical idea, but Powell and Pressburger spin it into a thing of beauty, from the dazzling transitions from back and white Heaven to Technicolor Earth, to the unending optimism and belief in the human spirit, to the haunting images of the countless soldiers lost during the horror of the war. This is a magnificent, deeply heartfelt film, one that strips away the horror and bloodshed of warfare and asks what such conflicts inflict on our humanity. In 1946, it would have been a revelation for the soul.
'DANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN'
'Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan' is a new gem. In my review
, I called it a weaponisation of empathy, and I still stand behind that. What makes this film doubly amazing is it is Australian made. This film documents the Vietnam War (I'm hoping the title gave it away) and sparks a real connection with the characters whilst doing it, namely because it is all written in fact. A little naïve to begin with, it isn't long before this tale catapults you into suspenseful action. It documents well the nature of war, comradeship, cooperation and loss. It'll leave you angry with the injustice of conflict and authority, whilst saddened at the harsh nature of our past. Support our country's films and give this a watch - in doing so, you're also showing support for the men that served, and the men that passed.READ OUR REVIEW
From legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, 'War Horse' takes the Michael Morpurgos novel and National Theatre stage play and brings to life an epic friendship between a horse and his boy. in the lead role of Albert is Jeremy Irvine, who provides a heartbreaking and grounded performance that never loses grip on reality. Spielberg's ability to simply and effectively serve up emotion makes this a masterfully affecting affair, all the more impressive with a story told through the eyes of a horse.READ OUR REVIEW