An ensemble piece of interconnected narratives looking at the many underdiscussed issues of the post-war day - PTSD, disability, divorce, familial dischord, depression - it's almost succeeds as an exercise in social realism, were it not so reactionary. The script is remarkable, though it ultimately succumbs to melodrama and moralism.
I've been let down by Wyler far too many times to get excited about this (Dodsworth was boring as shit). To my surprise, I found a Hollywood production that manages to fit within the system's tradition while also being unlike anything to come out of there. It's a wonderful study of three characters of different age and social status who come to struggle with their haunting past and a world no longer for them.
It's like someone set out to make the ultimate Oscar movie, then made up for it by crafting an almost perfect blend of naturalistic performances, sterling deep focus cinematography and fluid pacing. Only a few botched subplots (esp. Al's alcoholism) keep it from perfection.
For me, this is an absolute five star classic. At almost three hours, I actually found it to be a little short. Every aspect of the three soldiers lives and emotions are carefully examined as they try to readjust to "normal" lives. A splendid and brilliant film.
Handsome, well-groomed, photographed with stunning solidity and poised on the brink of realism, Dana Andrews almost transcends the murky perspex screen of his bomb-aimer's nose bay before he is sucked back into Hollywood's mellow gloss.