Attack!; war drama, USA, 1956; D: Robert Aldrich, S: Jack Palance, William Smithers, Eddie Albert, Robert Strauss, Lee Marvin
World War II, the Western Front, Europe. During an attack on the enemy positions, platoon leader Costa is horrified when the US Army captain, Cooney, refuses to send support to the battle, leaving thus many of Costa's men on the open to be shot down by the enemy. An alcoholic who is only interested in pleasing his dad, who is running for a judge, Cooney is an extremely unpopular commander of the unit, but Lieutenant Colonel Bartlett refuses Harry's suggestion to give Cooney a desk job instead, since he is a friend of Cooney's family. A new attack is ordered, this time on town La Nelle, and Costa once again leads his unit deep into the territory and conquers a small house, but Cooney once again fails to give them support, fearing the Nazi tanks, and thus many soldiers die while Costa has to retreat. In the Nazi counter-attack, Costa's hand is run over by a tank and he dies. Cooney wants to surrender in the basement, but is shot by Harry. When the Allies arrive, Bartlett refuses to punish Harry, instead agreeing to blame the enemy for Cooney's death.
Just like almost all of his films, Robert Aldrich's "Attack!" is a bitter, dark, dirty, unglamourous, restless, cruel and fierce picture, even for a war film, and especially for the 50s cinema, bizarrely playing out with an unheard-off concept in which the rivalry between the enemies on the battle front is actually almost completely overshadowed by the sheer hate and rivalry between the people in the same unit, the soldiers and their own captain, Cooney, who is an alcoholic klutz whose incompetence costs them more and more lives out on pointless military actions. The fact that Cooney is covered by his friend, Lieutenant Colonel Bartlett (Lee Marvin in another fantastic 'tough' performance), just leads the soldiers to privately mock him too, as well: while waiting in row for coffee, one of them says this: "When you salute to Bartlett, you have to apologize to your own hand!" The sole sequence where the platoon is ordered to storm a house in the city, but they die like flies by the enemy fire because Cooney never fulfilled his promise about support for them, reminds of the senseless dying in Charge of the Light Brigade-style: rarely was war shown in such a cynical, even derisive way, which is why Aldrich was denied access to assistance by the US Army. The ending is creepy, showing the agony of slow death of wounded soldiers in a very memorable manner, advancing thus into a small "dark pearl" of the war genre. In Aldrich's world, there is no ideal, and even after the war, human relations will still carry the same signs of betrayal, lies, selfishness and violence in peace. Efficient and competent, "Attack!" is one of the better war films of the 50s.