2000s

Published on September 9th, 2008 | by Chris

1

The Lost Battalion (2001)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On September 9, 2008
Last modified:October 6, 2012

Summary:

In October 1918, one battalion of American soldiers gets trapped behind enemy lines, thinking they are at the lead of an offensive, the reality is quite different. The Lost Battalion is a dirty, bloody, gritty look at life in the trenches, and at the reality of war.

In October 1918, one battalion of American soldiers gets trapped behind enemy lines, thinking they are at the lead of an offensive, the reality is quite different.  Based on the Johnson and Pratt book of the same name, The Lost Battalion is a dirty, bloody, gritty look at life in the trenches, and at the reality of war.

This made-for-TV movie falls into the category of 'best war movies I've never heard of.'  Yeah, its really quite good.  Surprisingly good as far as made-for-TV films go.  New York lawyer turned Major Charles Whittelsey (Rick Schroder) reluctantly takes his men where ordered, straight into the sights of the Germans.  He thinks the offensive is succeeding all around him, while in reality everyone else has pulled back, leaving his unit stranded up against a German battalion hell-bent on keeping them at bay.

From there it only gets worse for them, as he tries to reconcile his orders with the well-being of his men.  Continued assaults from the Germans, as well as a barrage of friendly-fire artillery tear the battalion to pieces.  Over the span of the six days they are trapped, their numbers drop from around 600, to less than 200.

The Lost Battalion is not for the squeamish.  Graphic are the battles, the injuries, the combat, and the deaths.  Yet it never really enters the realm of exploitation.  To me it turns out to be a pretty realistic representation of what it must have been like.  The supporting cast is also stellar, if somewhat unknown.

You also get a glimpse into the mechanics of the WWI battlefield.  Carrier pigeons for communication, the cavalry-like charges over the wall, that entire transition from "the battlefield" to modern mechanized warfare....

Schroder, love him or hate him, does a great job here.  He maintains that sort of 'officer stature' throughout, while never disconnecting with his men.  His final words sum up the tone of the picture.  "These men are better than you, they're better than me."

The special effects and production here is absolutely amazing for a made-for-TV bit as well.  While I'm no expert on WWI armaments and equipment, I never once felt that anything was out of place, or that anything was (technically) wrong in any way.  The pacing is just perfect on top of everything else.  We pause just long enough for the men to recover from the latest attack, and to muse on the madness of war and to comment on the disconnect between the men in the field and the officers back at command.

My only gripes might be the fact that it's in 4:3, but for a TV-bound show I guess you can't expect too much more.  I can only imagine what this would have been in full scope though.  The soundtrack is rather "TV like" as well, but it never gets too bad.

The Lost Battalion is a greatly-overlooked modern day classic in this reviewer's book.  I will watch this again.

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Description

For a generation the Lost Battalion exemplified the best of America’s involvement in World War I. Until World War II pushed the Lost Battalion out of the national memory with its own scenes of horror and heroism, mention of the unit’s name summoned up what America admired in its soldiers: unpretentious courage, dogged resistance, and good cheer and adaptation under adversity.

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10 Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War One's "Bastogne", June 3, 2014
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This review is from: The Lost Battalion (Paperback)
The "Lost Battalion" (a journalist's term that caught on) were 554, or so, American soldiers who held out against German forces surrounding them for five days -- deep in the Argonne Forest -- in 1918. They ran out of food after two days, but they refused to surrender. By the end, 360 had been killed, wounded, taken sick from living unsheltered in the October rain, or captured.
Johnson and Pratt superbly researched this from military records and from the recollections of American and German survivors, publishing it 20 years after the event. The writing is such that the reader can easily place himself in the conflict. Some of the soldiers seem real: Whittlesey, McMurtry, Hollingshead, Krotoshinsky, Kozlowski, Cullen, Larney, Newcom, Cepeglia were survivors. Others, who died -- Schenck, Peabody, Cavello, Baedeke -- are equally easy to recall.
The descriptions of the Lost Battalion's movements, and those of various units trying to make contact with them, are so... Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still valuable, June 3, 2016
By 
Stephen T Powers (Ft. Collins, CO, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lost Battalion (Paperback)
Although published in 1938, this is still a valuable account on the "Lost Battalion" in WWI.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas M Johnson has done a lot of research in the day by day action of this incident in WWI~!!, October 19, 2013
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This review is from: The Lost Battalion (Paperback)
My father was in the lost battalion. He was there on his birthday Oct 8th. He was from Idaho with all those New York Boys~!
Thank goodness he was one of the 200 Plus that survived and able to walk out, from the initial 555 that were in the pocket.

DaVon Lauder
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The Lost Battalion (2001) Chris

Summary: In October 1918, one battalion of American soldiers gets trapped behind enemy lines, thinking they are at the lead of an offensive, the reality is quite different. The Lost Battalion is a dirty, bloody, gritty look at life in the trenches, and at the reality of war.

4.5


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to The Lost Battalion (2001)

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    I agree. It reminds me of another made for TV movie that gets forgotten – the remake of “All Quiet”. Ironically, Richard Thomas is the lead in that. He is as close to Rick Schroder as you can get. The shot when one of the soldiers gets hit by a shell and ceases to be is soemthing I remember years later. That was an amazing special effect.
    I feel critics do not take made for TV movies seriously. Some of the greatest war movies are made for TV – “Rumor of War”, “Gettysburg”, “When Trumpets Fade”, “Band of Brothers”, “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

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