Classic Review : Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Nominated for four Oscars including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, and Best Actor (John Wayne)

Directed By – Allan Dwan
Starring – John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, and Adele Mara

A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

My Netflix dvd queue is a funny machine. I had about 13 films in front of this but every single one of them wasn’t available when it was time to ship out so I was surprised when this came in the mail. I honestly forgot all about it but was eager to sit down and watch an old film as it’s been way too long due to all the films from last year that I’ve been cramming in my face. There are so many older films that I’m finally going to be able to sit down and watch now that my Netflix queue is starting to get older and this pleases me. I’d rather watch bad film from the 40s than a bad film from last year any day. “Sand of Iwo Jima” ended up being a completely patriotic cookie cutter of a film but when you’re watching John Wayne and his infinite manliness, it doesn’t really matter.

The film follows a group of soldiers through boot camp to the…well…sands of Iwo Jima. John Stryker is the leader of this group, played by the manliest man of all men, John Wayne. Stryker is kind of a mix between drill instructor Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Tom Berenger from “Platoon”. The men don’t like him. He is tough as nails and don’t take no shit from NOBODY! You had plans to get laid over the weekend? I don’t think so! Looks to me like your bed is a little uneven. That will be a revocation of your weekend pass soldier. Seriously, this exact scenario played out in the film. Wayne, who would later go on to earn his first Oscar nomination for the role, was made to play this character. He takes nobodies shit and dishes out punishment. He ended up giving one of the performances of his career as we follow Stryker through his bouts of alcoholism, regrets, anger, and acceptance. The films co-star, John Agar, plays one of the privates who claims to be an intellectual and finds his Sargent deplorable. What plays out for the next two hours is a cookie cutter production of every single war cliche that has ever happened. Yet, with this being a mere four years after WWII ended, it’s obvious that this film was made as a symbolic power fist in the air for America, and for that I can put up with it.

One cool aspect of the film is that they spliced a lot of great real footage from Iwo Jima and other pacific battles into the film. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the actual footage which is always an interesting watch. I’ve always been interested in the years we went to war and the film shed more light on what it was actually like to run up those beaches into a hail of gunfire. Due to the time of its release, you’re not really getting anything gritty or brutal. The men who get killed on screen just kid of fall down or do that clutching to the chest as they slowly let gravity bring them to the sand. Like I said, cliche and cheesy. It was however a great display of acting from Wayne and a much needed break from the glitter and glamour of films released this year.

2.5/5

Suggested Viewing – The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers: The Pacific



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