John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Compared with too many other World War II movies that came out of Hollywood during World War II THEY WERE EXPENDABLE released in December 1945 is exceptional. Character development is deft and economical even with minor characters. Action sequences are loud and exciting. Dialogue is crisp and well-written. Acting is excellent especially from lead Robert Montgomery whose own PT boat experience influenced his own performance.
Also praiseworthy is the non-jingoistic and non-racist tone of the film which accurately portrays the depressing sense of collapse of the U.S. military around the Philippines during the early days of the Pacific War. Also portrayed: how individual service personnel performed their duty despite the crushing Japanese advance.
One of the most telling scenes is the return of Montgomery’s squadron following its initial tangle with enemy aircraft. Having left a pristine and disciplined facility in a tropical location they return to a smoking ruin and find most of their support infrastructure gone. What finally dawns on them — and the viewer — is what they are up against.
Review copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald