Sunday, May 15, 2011

THE HILL (1965) - Sidney Lumet

In case you ever wondered what it might look if someone other than Stanley Kubrick directed Paths of Glory or the first half hour of Full Metal Jacket. In case you ever wondered what it might be like if Sean Connery replaced Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. In case you ever thought Sidney Lumet could only direct actors and not camera, I offer up Exhibit A...The Hill.

Sidney successfully mashes up Paris Island sadism and prison film intrigue in a story about court martialed British soldiers in North Africa suffering under the yoke of crazy physical endurance tests and crazier commanding wardens. Lumet's touch is bit more humane than old cold Stanley, but damn if he doesn't put his desert setting to good use in some fabulous moving crane and deep focus shots.

Connery is solid as always, as are the four or five British R. Lee Ermey barking-dog staff sergeants. But it's Ossie Davis who steals the show when he decides in the middle of prison camp that he is retired from the army, has no need to take orders and strips down his skivvies to walk around like he owns the place and smoke the Commandant's cigars. Now that's dissent!

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