Phil was scouting through Amazon Prime’s war movie selection and came across Saints & Soldiers ~ Battle of the Tanks (2014). Saints and Soldiers is a movie franchise, and there are three movies, starting with Saints and Soldiers (2004) S&S~Airborne Creed (2012) and S&S~Battle of the Tanks, also known as S&S~The Void. All were written and directed by Ryan Little and made on a tight budget.
(For anyone reading who is not aware of my bloke’s hobby of building scale model German Armour, please take note that he is an excellent modeller with fastidious attention to historical detail).
So the movie was chosen and the plot is as follows:-
It’s the last days of WW2 and we are in Northern Europe in the Hartz Mountains, nicknamed ‘The Void’ by the American troops stationed there. One of the crews of the M18 Hellcat tank destroyers “The Avenging Angel” fire on a German POW camp and liberate the allied inmates within, including Lieutenant Goss (Ben Urie). The next day the ex POW’s are to be transported to the rear in 2 trucks driven by African American soldiers, Sergeant Jesse Owens (K.Danor Gerald) and Private Perry (Alex Boye). It turns out Owens and Perry spent 2 years in Hellcats during the war, but some General (can’t remember his name) had pulled their unit off tanks and put them to work doing normal transport work. Some of the white soldiers treat them with disdain for being Black, especially Corporal Carey Simms (Adam Gregory) and the relationship between Simms and Gerald forms the moral centre of the story.
It becomes apparent that there is still a pocket of German resistance in the area, and that a General is on the way to visit so Captain Briton McConkie (Jeff Birk ) orders two Hellcat crews lead by Sergeant John Atwood (Timothy S. Shoemaker) in the Avenging Angel and Max Whitaker (Joel Bishop) in a second Hellcat to clear the way so the ex POW’s can be moved safely, and the General is not inconvenienced. Off they all go and along the way have to stop as there’s a dead USA soldier in the road, except it’s not, it’s a fake and a dug-in hidden German Panzer III blasts Perry’s truck killing everyone in it. The Panzer then turns on the 2nd truck and Owens and Goss are the only ones to escape. The Hellcats have to then do battle with 3 Panzers, and Owens has to work with Simms in the Angel when one of their crew is killed.
So that’s the gist of it and I’ll leave it there for spoilers sakes.
For Phil, the Panzers were the main event, and we had to stop and pause for a while several times whilst he stood with his nose a foot away from the screen checking out all the details of the tanks, and he thought they were most excellent mock-ups with all the correct details, except for the tank tracks which he thought they’d got wrong. Actually both the Hellcats and the Panzer used were the real thing, beautifully preserved, but obviously some tinkering on the wheels and tracks had happened as Phil is never wrong on these things, Panzers are his lifelong passion!
The movie is not Saving Private Ryan or anything like the big budget WW2 movies you may know and love. It has a small budget with unknown actors, but Little has become very adept at telling a convincing story in these Saints and Soldiers movies. Some of the actors were more capable than others, especially K.Danor Gerald who has a world weary likeability, and he would be the last cast member to eat lunch during filming, to better understand racism for his role of an African-American soldier, though I think just being a Black man in America would have given him enough understanding of that. His character and that of Lieutenant Goss have backstories either in the script or in flashbacks which gives some nice depth to the movie and makes it more than just a tank battle. The uniforms and other vehicles were spot on, and Little makes good use of re-enactors as extras. Although set in Europe the movie was filmed in Alpine, Utah which was a surprise, great mountain scenes!
We enjoyed it and I’d happily watch more Saints and Soldiers movies, (which I may have to as Phil’s got the others on DVD 🤣). If Little can do such as this on such a tight budget, it would be great to see what he could do with a big budget Hollywood job!
Fraggle Rating: A must for WW2 buffs.
The Saturday movie had me going through Amazon Prime for a certain movie but I came across this one on the way and chose it for the cast!
Cut Bank (2014) is a thriller in a similar vein to Fargo (I think as I haven’t seen that- too much Francis McDormand!). It’s directed by Matt Shakman who did indeed direct Fargo. Starring Liam Hemsworth, John Malkovich, Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Dern,Teresa Palmer and Michael Stuhlbarg. I really don’t want to say much about it as if you haven’t seen it you should, and it’s best not to know. It’s labelled a ‘thriller’ but I’m not sure I’d call it that. Dwayne & Cassandra (Hemsworth and Palmer) are a young couple making plans to leave Cut Bank, and Dwayne puts a plan in motion to get them some money. Malkovich plays Sherriff Vogel, and he’s just great in this, quite understated for him and it works for the character who chucks up if he sees a dead person. Thornton Plays Cassandra’s Dad and Dwayne’s boss, Stan Steeley, a hard nosed taciturn man who doesn’t care much for Dwayne. Bruce Dern is Georgie Wits, the Postman, who is in on Dwayne’s plan. Then we have Stuhlberg playing a reclusive taxidermist with milk-bottle-bottom specs and a stammer.
Robert Patino, who wrote the script had travelled through Cut Bank, Montana as a kid, and it stayed with him as he grew up and became a script writer, so he put his heart and soul into it and really wanted it to be filmed in Cut Bank. However, they learned that they could get a film grant in Alberta in which their budget of $2.5 million would be matched through the Edmonton Film Commission, so filmed in Innisfree instead. Still, the $5 million meant they could do the script justice and hire quality actors.
And it was quality acting, Hemsworth of course doesn’t have the experience and deft touch that his veteran co-stars brought to this, but he’ll get there doing this kind of film, and he did what was necessary for the character. Nice to see that he isn’t going down the same path as his action hero brother. Palmer was a delight, her character being effervescent and sweet without being annoying, and her audition for ‘Miss Cut Bank’ at a beauty pageant was a thing of beauty 🤣. Malkovich, Dern and Thornton are the stars here though, great to see these guys working together, a trio of cool dudes, and Stuhlberg is superb.
Fraggle Rating :- Nearly Bloody Brilliant.