Sunday, September 19, 2010

1953: From Here to Eternity

It's December 1941 in Hawaii.  Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a former boxer, is being tortured and manipulated by his commanding officers, led by Captain Holmes, who want him to join the company boxing team.  The only two people who care are Private Maggio, who is having issues with the evil sergeant in charge of the stockade, and Sergeant Warden, who is busy having an affair with Captain Homes's wife.  The only things keeping Prewitt going are his love for the army and his love for "Lorene," a "gentlemen's club hostess."  Then the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

Okay, so it's another depressing war Best Picture.  But it's also really good.  The story is intriguing, powerful, and moving, and it has very well-developed characters.  The casting was excellent, particularly in supporting roles.  Frank Sinatra made a major comeback as Maggio, and he and Donna Reed (who played "Lorene") won Best Supporting Actor and Actress for their performances.  It's fun to see Donna Reed in a not-so-wholesome role.  I also like seeing Deborah Kerr play an American.

This film is well-done from a technical standpoint as well.  Everything was shot and framed perfectly; I particularly liked one shot of Sgt. Warden as he leans against a wall next to a calendar that tells us it's Saturday December 6.  It's so effortlessly stuck in, and it's a perfect reminder that something is coming, for viewers who are paying attention.  Little things like that make this film brilliant.  It's probably most famous for Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing on the beach, but there's so much more to it than that.  Yes, it's depressing, but it's a well-told story, and that's what a film should be.

Next: On the Waterfront

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