Scripted by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov, this is more complex than Dick Lester's scornful '60s parody of it in How I Won the War suggests. Reed achieves his transformation of a bunch of lazy, quarrelsome civilians into a proficient fighting force with a minimum of machismo and glory. Unlike today's sinister professional force, this is a people's army. Niven's officer is a car mechanic up from the ranks, and Hartnell's thin-lipped sergeant scourges out class differences with a rigorous application of army discipline. Despite a framework which stresses regimental traditions and military valour, the film's celebration of the ordinary man as soldier leaves a residue of radicalism.