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Alone We Fight and Air Strike.

Movie titles, slogans, and advertising copy are usually developed with a great deal of care, but there are times when a title or description can create false anticipation. Of course, not all text is literal. Nightmare in a title usually denotes horror, but it may also be appropriate for a psychological drama. Two WWII films just released for DVD and streaming markets might not be what they first appear.

Alone We Fight (2018) opens with a prologue about the fighting in Hurtgen Forest and ends with an Ernest Hemmingway quote on the subject. The November 1944 action, widely known as the Battle of the Bulge, was difficult and deadly for the inexperienced 28th Infantry Division. The film supplies the appropriate frigid setting in a large forest, but it otherwise could have been set just about anywhere that Americans fought. Sergeant Falcone (Aidan Bristow) and two of his US Army Ranger squad survive a confrontation with vicious German soldiers by overpowering and killing them. They make their way to an aid station, where two female medics patch them up. Vowing revenge, Falcone and the two other rangers go on a mission to destroy a German fuel dump.

Due to design or to budget limitation, the production never accedes to the bigger picture of the battle. The orders for Colonel Bradley Armstrong, who turns up briefly, played by veteran actor Corbin Bernsen, describe only the local situation. There is some compelling battle action as Falcone and trusted comrade Private "Boston" O'Reilly (Matthew James McCarthy) raid a fuel dump and fight their way out, but most of the scenes are filled with slow-paced, cliche-laden dialogue. Bristow and McCarthy are effective, but beyond showcasing their talents, there is not much to recommend about Alone We Fight.

On the opposite side of the war, and of the production budget scale, is Air Strike (2018), a film that does deliver what its title promises. The focus is on the intense Japanese bombing of the Nationalist Chinese headquarters city of Chongqing (Chunking). Although Bruce Willis is prominently featured in advertising and plays a significant role, and other Hollywood personalities were involved, this Chinese-made film feels like it was created for Chinese audiences. Willis plays Jack, a US Army Air Corps officer advising the Chinese air force on battling the Japanese. It's an unfair fight, but the Chinese, in their outdated aircraft, make valiant efforts under Jack's encouragement and tutelage as they await a delivery of American fighters.

Then there are the parallel stories. In one, a downed Chinese pilot is given a mission to truck a vital decoder over open ground to the capital. Along the way he picks up a young woman who was caring for orphans. In another, relatives of the fliers and others in Chongqing endure constant Japanese bombings while they prepare for a major mahjong tournament.

Air Strike has plenty of problems. There are too many story lines and characters, and not enough time to develop them all. Adrien Brody is wasted as Steve, a welfare worker seen in occasional cutaway action. Willis does a good job relating to his men, but his role is diluted by the film's constantly cutting from one storyline to another. A lot of money was spent on some terrific bombing and flying scenes, but the plane animation has a videogame look in spots where it's not carefully edited. The script is often melodramatic and the Chinese actors, though talented, turn many scenes into soap opera fare. This, along with the gratuitous appearance of several kung fu fights, are telltale signs of a film not geared to American audiences.

Jay Wertz

Phillips Ranch, California
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Title Annotation:THEATER OF WAR
Author:Wertz, Jay
Publication:America in WWII
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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