Synopsis – The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view – The Longest Day.
Directors – Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
Starring – John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Kenneth More
Genre- Action | War | Historical
Released – 1962
If you liked: All Quiet on the Western Front, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai
Based on the Cornelius Ryan 1959 book of the same name, The Longest Day is a historically accurate account of the events surrounding the D-Day landings, an event that shaped the 20th Century for the better but at a great cost to human life. This is an engrossing and dramatic epic war thriller of a kind which they sadly don’t make anymore. A stirring tribute to the resourcefulness and bravery of these men and while it only covers the events leading up to the invasion and those of June 6, 1944, the sense that the balance has now tipped in favour of the Allied forces, giving these men and the movie an ending of optimistic hope. The events in the film may be over, but the war certainly isn’t.
Benefiting from an extremely tight script and talented direction from each of the contributors in both the slower character scenes and the wonderfully powerful battle scenes. But what’s more surprising given the movie’s multiple directors is how consistent the tone and pacing are. It was only upon researching the film that this wasn’t the work of a single director. The choice to have each nationality speak their own language rather than English with an accent also adds to the movie’s sense of authenticity.
The film boasts an extremely big cast made up entirely of the biggest male film stars of the 60s, each of which are given the chance to shine. The biggest name at the time was probably John Wayne, who also took on the biggest role as Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort. His screen presence and skill as an actor really made the character’s bravery and anguish come alive, especially in the sequence in which he comes across all the bodies of parachutists shot down during the invasion. An event you can see unfold in greater detail in this film’s partner piece A Bridge Too Far.
Overall, The Longest Day is an excellent war epic filled with wonderful performances and stunning cinematography, which I feel made it fully deserve its nomination for Best Picture, though it may not be on quite the same level as that year’s winner Lawrence of Arabia.