The Longest Day – In 1944, the U.S. Army and Allied forces plan a huge invasion landing in Normandy, France. Despite bad weather, General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the okay and the Allies land at Normandy. General Norma Cota travels with his men onto Omaha Beach. With much effort, and lost life, they get off the beach, traveling deep into French territory. The German military, due to arrogance, ignorance and a sleeping Adolf Hitler, delay their response to the Allied landing, with crippling results.
A great film within its context
The Longest Day works on several levels – the most obvious being the “don’t blink or you might miss several” nature of the Star-Studded cast. Much of the cast works very well (Sean Connery’s little comedy double act with Norman Rossington is an unexpected highlight). Some less so, and some is just downright tokenism – Rod Steiger getting all of 43 seconds on-screen for example. But overall, it’s always a watchable movie – beautifully shot.
Some previous comment have surprised me, particularly the assertion that The Longest Day is, in any way, a “pro-war” film. I’m not sure if there *is* such a thing, but if there is then The LOngest Day certainly doesn’t fall into this category – the scene of bewilderment between Richard Burton and Richard Beymer at the end about the confusion and directionlessness of war is the perfect example, ending with the memorable line “I wonder who won”.
I’m also surprised that a European reviewer should have accused this film, of all world war II movies, of being American propoganda. I wonder how many other WWII films include both German and (almost unqiuely) French perspectives of the war to such an extent that almost half of the dialogue in them is in a language other than English. I find the German sequences in The Longest Day to be amongst the most interesting historically and dramatically.
The film is certainly as accurate as it’s possible for a fictional movie to be – the list of advisors that it had working on it should prove that – including many people who are portrayed by actors in the movie itself. These include the characters played by Peter Lawford, Richard Todd and Kenneth More, along with several of the German field officers. Little touches that seem utterly out of place (like the nuns procession through the French village bringing a temporary ceasefire) are actually historically spot-on.
The final problem for the modern reviewer, of course, is the inevitable comparison between this film and Saving Private Ryan. But, as several other contributors have noted, SPR is not only the product of a different age with a different view of these events – historical as opposed to something which happened so recently that half of the audience are likely to have lived through them. But, ultimately, something usually forgotten about Operation Overlord is that Omaha Beach was merely one battle of a very long day indeed. Americans tend to focus on it because of the death toll, but the taking of Utah, Sword and Gold were just as important to the overall outcome. The Longest Day is a film about five beaches, many battles, and many men – some, as Richard Burton says, dead, some crippled and some lost. It is an anti-war film which proves that you can be anti-war and still celebrate and acknowledge heorism. The heroism of the young American and British troops, falling face-first into the salt water of the Normandy killing grounds. The incredible bravery of the Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Luc on and, ultimately, meaningless mission. The heroism of the two Luftwaffe pilots commanded to face the invading armies alone, and who did so (another historically accurate point).
The Longest Day is a historic film about a historical event and it should be