War movies usually don’t pack much firepower at the box-office—we’re looking at you Unbroken, Flags of Our Fathers, The Monuments Men, Fury, The Hurt Locker, War Horse, Letters From Iwo Jima, StopLoss and Green Zone. But maybe hoping for another exception like the red, white and blue megahit American Sniper (shrewdly advertised as a full-on action thriller from a real-life soldier’s personal POV), some of Hollywood’s brightest stars and directors are enlisting for big budget period war movies.
Watch for the highly photogenic Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as they plunge way over their heads in love and danger in the Robert Zemeckis-directed WWII romantic thriller Allied, scripted by Steven Knight (Locke). Playing assassins who fall for each other in Casablanca while on the trail of a high-ranking German official, Pitt and Cotillard’s characters get hitched and begin uncovering nasty little secrets about each other that … well, you wouldn’t want us to kill the suspense before the movie opens on November 23rd (i.e. prime Oscar bait season), would you?
The film sounds a bit like a mash-up of old school greats like Casablanca and Notorious crossed with Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and it should be noted that this marks Pitt’s third WWII movie, after Inglorious Basterds and Fury. What’s up with that? We don’t know for sure, but maybe the ardently pro-gun control Pitt (who got his first handgun at age six and who today, like wife Angelina Jolie, is known as a crack shot) likes displaying his shooting skills alongside his patriotism, particularly in films involving the world’s least morally ambiguous villains: Nazis.
Meanwhile, Interstellar director Christopher Nolan is doing his bit for the war effort by giving us Dunkirk, an IMAX 65mm action epic set in 1940 about how 300,000-plus embattled Allied troops in France got snatched from the German army’s clutches by a British, Belgian and French coalition. The cast for that seagoing saga includes Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and, making his movie debut, Harry Styles, One Direction’s chronic crotch-grabber. Expect Dunkirk to blitzkrieg theaters on July 27, 2017.
The Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, features Thomas Jane and Tom Sizemore and stars Nicolas Cage as the captain of a ship torpedoed in 1945 by the Japanese in the South Pacific, after which 300 troops went down with the ship and another 317 suffered dehydration, exposure, shark attacks and more until they were rescued. Don’t expect fanfare or awards attention, though; this one may or may not be headed straight to video.
With Hollywood neck deep in WWII nostalgia, bravo to Life of Pi director Ang Lee for tackling a different era with Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s satirical novel about a 19-year-old survivor of an Iraq war mission who gets callously exploited as a military hero at a big Dallas Cowboys halftime show and who has a powerful romantic encounter with a cheerleader, only to learn that he and his comrades are being shipped back into combat immediately after. Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Steve Martin and, in the title role, Ben Platt lead the charge. Could this one be another American Sniper hit? Maybe, because the story is told through the experience of one likable, sharp-witted soldier; maybe not, though, because it’s got a Catch-22 seriocomic sense of the futility of war. Expect award nominations, though.