The Big Red One, Mar 05


Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One is one of the legendary massacred movies. Like The Wild Bunch, Once Upon a Time in America, and Brazil, it was a film too ambitious and long for the studio, so more than 45 minutes were removed before its premiere in 1980. While it still retained its clean-edged grit and power, the film was disjointed and bewildering. Now, 25 years later, The Big Red One has been lovingly restored to become one of the most egalitarian, warmhearted anti-war movies of all time.

The story of four soldiers and their grizzled sergeant (Lee Marvin), who all miraculously make it through the entirety of World War II, The Big Red One is brisk with action and quick-changing episodes, but filled with an unsettling elegy and deep-rooted abhorrence to violence.

One of the great things about the film is the ease and familiarity it carries. A veteran, Fuller experienced the life of a soldier as oscillating between brutality and forced silliness as a way to stay sane. From the opening shot during World War I to the final scene in a death camp, The Big Red One courageously tackles World War II without guile or pretension.

The Big Red One is a timeless film that pulls back the veneer of war honestly and convincingly. It is as relevant now as it was in 1980. What a treat that 25 years after the fact we get this wise critique of war and American morality. A+