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This movie begins in a World War II training depot of a British Guards armored regiment where recruits from many walks of life learn to survive the strict discipline and training together before going into battle in tanks. There is a cameo appearance by the real Sergeant Major Brittain, who was famous in the British guards regiments.
It's life life of a tank division of the Welsh Guards -- writer-director Terence Young's unit during the Second World War -- from training through the Battle of the Bulge. It centers on an American volunteer, Ralph Clanton, and Edward Underdown, but it's a movie of flashes and vignettes, impressions of war closely realized, where a battlefield has a dead cow amid the advancing tanks, and crews are briefed in barns, where cockerels strut about.
There's little doubt in my mind that Young drew the threads of this movie from his own experience, and hewed to the dictum that drama is life with the dull parts cut out. The result is a series of closely drawn individuals, including Michael Trubshawe in his screen debut and Christopher Lee in a small role in his eighth movie: to some a career, but he would appear in 188 more.
The only times when the movie slows down, when scenes last minutes instead of seconds, is when Underdown is with his wife, Helen Cherry, and Clanton with his English girlfriend, Stella Andrew. These, the film tells us, are life. The rest of it, the entire war, is some weird, senseless dream.
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