Sands of Iwo Jima, 1949

This is among the classic John Wayne war movies, but it doesn’t do that much for me. The combat scenes are first rate. Actual films from combat photographers on Tarawa and Iwo Jima are combined almost seamlessly with film shot at Camp Pendelton and in the studio. The acting is good throughout, from John Wayne and everyone else. They do use actual Marine officers in some of the scenes, and you can tell they aren’t actors, but that’s okay, kind of like the actual film footage. Where Sands of Iwo Jima doesn’t hold up is in the story. The characters are stereotypes: the big farm boy, the little city guy, the Jewish guy, the malcontent, the college man, the sergeant who’s harsh and demanding because he cares. It’s not engaging. Maybe it was more original in 1949, but Twelve O’Clock High from the same year is a better movie.

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