Published on July 21st, 2008 | by Chris1
The Longest Day (1962)
In some respects, 1962's The Longest Day could be considered "The Longest Movie," because quite frankly at times it is just that. Long. Weighing in at 178 minutes, it certainly is that.
Chronicling the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944, The Longest Day could best be placed into the "docudrama" category. From the initial, bad weather, days before the invasion, we see events and people on both sides of the channel. The Allies waiting out the weather in anticipation of the invasion, and the Germans on the other side, internally divided on where the invasion will happen and what to do about it.
What you end up with is a rather "textbook" picture of things. From a historical point of view, with a generous amount of artistic license thrown in, The Longest Day succeeds brilliantly at capturing most of the events surrounding D-Day. From the British glider missions, the scattered American paratroopers, the involvement of the French resistance, and even the division in the Reich's ranks, and the lone two Luftwaffe pilots who managed to get involved.... Pretty much every angle is covered.
You'll also find one of the more realistic looks at the beach invasion, at least what they would allow in 1962. Sure its no Saving Private Ryan, but I think you'll take away the same feelings from this portrayal that you would there. The feelings of desparation, the cringing at the amount of life that was laid down....
But the problem here is just one of scope. On the one hand you've got an epic film that tries to tell all the different stories, and does just that. On the other hand, you've got a film that tries to tell just *too many* different stories, and really doesn't get deep enough into any particular one to really make a difference.
The entire film is just one "event" or "famous name" after another, with little to connect them all except the umbrella of Operation Overlord. Most of the film is spent in "chronicle" mode, and it's really not until the end, where British Flight Officer Campbell (Richard Burton) encounters a lost Airborne (was that Paul Anka's character?) and they trade opinions. "He's dead, I'm crippled, and you're lost. Sort of fitting don't you think?" That's about the only real exploration of what any of this means to anyone.
Famous faces abound, from Eddie Albert, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and the aforementioned Richard Burton and Paul Anka, to a much younger Sean Connery and Red Buttons.
As a sweeping epic with a certain documentary aspect to it, The Longest Day is a masterful bit of film. Covering just about any angle and "sub plot" to the invasion, from the unfortunate Airborne drop into the town square, to the involvement of Gen. Ted Roosevelt, son of *the* Teddy Roosevelt and cousin to FDR. I can see why this film is highly thought of by veterans of the war, and the invasion.
But quite frankly it is just quite long and a little too involved. I could see this movie being even better if it were still longer, and we were given a chance to connect with any of the characters... or if it were shorter and less inclusive, focusing more on a particular story than trying to encompass them all.
I still give The Longest Day high marks as a war movie classic. This should definitely be on your "must see" list, but be prepared to endure long spells of nothing much in particular happening. Maybe that's the whole point.... "Hurry up and wait?" Quite possibly!
Summary: I still give The Longest Day high marks as a war movie classic. This should definitely be on your "must see" list, but be prepared to endure long spells of nothing much in particular happening. Maybe that's the whole point.... "Hurry up and wait?" Quite possibly!