“Attack” (1956)

It’s a punchy little WW II flick from Robert Aldrich. An American company is assigned to take a town from the Germans, but its captain is so shit-scared of dying that his decisions begin chewing up the lives of his men. Eddie Albert is the alcoholic weakling (and closet sadist), Jack Palance is the lieutenant who’s ready to take up arms against his C.O., and Lee Marvin is the Kentucky bourbon-sipping colonel who schmoozes everybody because he wants to be a politician after the war. It’d be memorable if it had just settled for its half dozen scenes examining the effect of some really ugly cowardice, but it goes further, tying together personal and institutional cowardice in a way that couldn’t have made the Army happy, and once Albert starts breaking under the strain it wanders into some surprisingly gnarly territory for the genre. There may well be other WW II movies about GIs who put more thought into fragging their C.O. than killing Germans, but I sure haven’t seen them.

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