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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What movies best honor the work and sacrifices of soldiers?

Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada and the U.K. (and in lots of other countries, too), a day begun to honor the sacrifices of soldiers in World War I — probably still the most horrific war in many respects — and today generally considered a day to pay tribute to all soldiers in all conflicts since.
So, for today, a simple question with a not-so-simple answer:

What movies best honor the work and sacrifices of soldiers?

This can be a toughie, because matters of war are always laden with political and moral issues apart from the actual work soldiers do… and often do against their own principals. For instance, would it be possible for a movie to effectively honor an ordinary German soldier during World War II, given the things we now know he would have been fighting for — genocide, fascism — even if he didn’t know it? I suspect it probably is possible (and such a film or films probably already exist in German cinema, which I’m not terribly familiar with). We could argue that 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front does do an excellent job of removing the job of soldiering from its political framework to highlight how soldiers’ patriotism and sense of duty can be misused by politicians. (Though it’s likely easy to do that about an enemies’ soldiers, and less so about our own, for our own motives are always correct, of course, and our own soldiers never dupes, naturally.)

I might pick, for my answer to this question, Joyeux Noël, the 2006 European movie about the “Christmas truce” of 1914 that saw British, French, and German soldiers coming out of their trenches to celebrate the holiday together, and discovering that they had no reason to kill one another except that their leaders have tricked them into believing they should. It’s a devastating movie, powerfully highlighting how modern warfare is as much about propaganda as it is actual combat.

Your pick?

(FYI, we talked about our favorite movies about soldiers and soldiering back in May 2009; feel free to start up that conversation again if you like.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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