movie film review | chris tookey

They Were Expendable

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  They Were Expendable Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
7.90 /10
Robert Montgomery , John Wayne, Donna Reed
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Directed by: John Ford , Robert Montgomery (the latter was uncredited)
Written by: Frank Wead from William L. White's book

Released: 1945
Genre: WAR
Origin: US
Colour: BW
Length: 135

Motor torpedo boats operate in the Pacific during World War II.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A story of heroic teamwork and courage in defeat, this was an astonishingly downbeat film to be released before the war was won. The biggest weaknesses are an over-episodic and unclear narrative, excessive length and an extraneous romantic sub-plot between John Wayne and Donna Reed (both the characters on whom they were based sued MGM and won). But Robert Montgomery, a naval officer in real life, gives a moving portrayal of the loneliness of leadership - a favourite Fordian theme, to be explored in his later cavalry westerns.

This is probably the most artistically shot of all World War II films; Ford's direction and Joseph H. August's cinematography have an expressionistic intensity in the battle and hospital sequences. Ford broke his leg two weeks before the end of shooting, and Montgomery took over.

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