One of the best movies to have come out of World War II literately scripted by Robert Rossen from Harry Brown's fine novel, and making marvellous use of the repetitive rhythms of GI banter (with the cheery Conte's Nobody dies!, for instance, gradually assuming the quality of an ironic incantation). Discreet, dispassionate, and subtly poetic, it traces the experiences, through one brief action, of an infantry platoon which 'came across the sea to sunny Italy and took a little walk in the sun'. Characterisation is sharp and simple, the focus kept strictly to the immediate realities of fear and boredom, so that there is none of the special pleading of Milestone's earlier All Quiet on the Western Front. Here messages are left to take care of themselves, although the introspective Ireland's habit of composing letters to his sister in his head is used more than once to subversive effect. 'We just blew a bridge and took a farmhouse' he begins after the action in which a lot of his platoon died, 'It was easy...so terribly easy': a rare acknowledgement at that time of every soldier's innocently selfish joy that he didn't die.
Cast and crew
Dana Andrews John Ireland Richard Conte Sterling Holloway Norman Lloyd Lloyd Bridges George Tyne Herbert Rudley Huntz Hall