They Were Expendable is a severely flawed film with greatness trapped within. Directed by John Ford, the film thankfully doesn't feature his racism but is still marred by his false, jingoistic nature. Featuring Montgomery and Wayne as two PT boat officers caught in the beginning of WWII's Pacific Front, the film's best moments are with Montgomery and not with Wayne. [cont.]
Great Ford film. Arguably top 5 WW2 flicks out there. Wayne and Reed have great chemistry together, and Montgomery's real war experience operating PT boats shows. A really well made, touching film, and another classic in a long one from one of the masters. 5 stars. Essential for war film buffs.
It is propaganda, in a fashion, but it's telling that what Ford chooses to emphasize isn't combat prowess but camaraderie, and even then he doesn't try to gloss over what soldiers are expected to give up, fair or not. The nighttime raids are among the best action sequences of the era, but some of the most unforgettable images are the faces of the extras (real soldiers?) and how utterly goddamn young they are.
The final third is really captivating, and has a nice pseudo-documentary feel that kind of eclipses the rest of the movie. Some of the images surrounding the repair of the boats are incredibly well thought and run deep. The final exchange somehow aberrant, discursive. Worth watching...
An exquisitely shot film with the technical sagacity that Ford is known for. However, it is made in a more semidocumentary style as opposed to the expressionist/romantic that is exhibited in some of his better known films. Nevertheless, I did enjoy this picture very much and it's essential for any John Ford fan or anyone interested in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.