With the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on a bit of a break, I decided to take a little break myself and post my reviews of real life or fictional movies or series with military themes that I have seen over the last couple of months. Admittedly all of these materials I have seen are from Netflix, but I did try to include other sources also for them if they are available.
WWII: 1941 AND THE MAN OF STEEL (Five out of Five Stars)
Available on Netflix, Youtube, DVD and the PBS Network, this series consists of two 45 minute episodes and is originally produced by BBC. This is an absolutely fascinating documentary of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia in World War Two (WW2) from the viewpoint of the Russians. At its center is Josef Stalin, it shows his biography including his inner circle and how he rose into power and transformed Russia.
The first episode deals with the build up to Barbarossa and the initial victories by the Germans, almost capturing Moscow. The second episode deals with the Russian’s counterattack, the Germans’ refocus on the Caucasus and their subsequent defeat in Stalingrad. It discusses in detail the strategic maneuverings by both forces and the consequences of these actions, and also the political maneuverings between Stalin and Winston Churchill.
Ultimately it showed how his pragmatism helped Stalin win the war over the Germans. English Historian David Reynolds is an excellent host, he is exactly the kind of Professor you would want to be teaching you about Military History. Lots of archival footages and visits to important sites around Russia help the show become more interesting. The second episode I felt was better than the first one, but overall just an outstanding series, a “must-see” for me and one of the best contemporary documentaries about WW2.
WWII: 1942 AND HITLER’S SOFT UNDERBELLY (Five out of Five Stars)
Available on Netflix, Youtube and DVD, this series consists of two 45 minute episodes and is originally produced by BBC. Another excellent documentary hosted by the English Historian David Reynolds, this time about the lesser known War of the Mediterranean. The first episode discusses the strategic importance of the Egypt in the British Empire and English, Italian and German campaigns in the Middle East.
The series is quite comprehensive as it covers not only the military aspect of the war but also the political aspects as well, like Churchill’s struggle to keep the British Empire intact amidst increasing pressure from nationalists in Egypt and India, and even by the US itself for Britain to grant independence to Britain’s Colonies.
ROAD TO VICTORY (Five out of Five Stars)
Also known as “The American Road to Victory“, it is available on Netflix or as a DVD set. It consists of a total of two approximately one hour episodes and one 90 minute episode and is originally produced by the “Living Battlefield” organization. This war documentary series covers the invasion of Germany in World War Two, starting with Operation Overlord (the allied invasion of Normandy), Operation Market Garden (Field Marshall Montgomery’s gamble to end the war early) and Operation Watch on the Rhine (the Battle of the Bulge, or Hitler’s Last Hurrah).
Now I have seen and read a couple of materials about WW2 over the years, but I noticed that with the really good ones like this one, you always end up learning something new. Hosted by the English Historian Ellwood von Seibold who goes to the actual battlefield locations and dons period authentic uniforms and equipment which makes the series more interesting.
All the episodes are good, but the last one (which is also the longest) is extra special as the series gives a special tribute to what they considered as the biggest battle in the history of the United States. If you like watching WW2 materials, then this is highly recommended.
SHOOTER, SEASON ONE (Five out of Five Stars)
Available on Netflix and the USA Network, this series consists of ten approximately one-hour episodes and is originally produced by the “USA Network”. This Military/Spy Action-Thriller basically follows the plot of the 2007 movie with the same title that starred Mark Wahlberg, which is about a contemporary United States Marine Corps (USMC) Sniper who was framed for the assassination of a high ranking government official as part of a vast conspiracy.
Compared to the movie, they now they have a lot more time to tell and expound on the story, making it a lot better IMHO. Most of the military technical aspects of the show related to Sniping and Firearms are excellent, but every now and then you do see one or two misses, probably just to try to add excitement or some other value to the show. But overall the series is still exceptional, highly recommended, a “must-see” for me.
PLANE RESURRECTION, SEASON ONE (Four out of Five Stars)
SERIES REVIEW: Plane Resurrection, Season One
Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and the PBS Network, this series consists of a total of six 50 minute episodes. These documentaries are about a couple of private individuals in the United Kingdom (UK) with ongoing or completed projects for restoring or recreating propeller-engined aircraft from previous eras into flying condition. Each episode shows one type of aircraft, and the following have been featured in its first season: P-51 Mustang, Hawker Hurricane, Fokker Dreidecker, PT-17 Stearman, AT-6 Texan and Percival Q6.
The individuals themselves tell the story of how they went about their aircraft projects, with Historians and Technical Personnel providing additional details about the history, operation and design of each aircraft. It is really very inspiring how they went about all that time, money and effort for their projects. The first and middle episodes are pretty good, although things do sort of slow down a little bit towards the last episodes of the series. Still, highly recommended.
SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE (Three out of Five Stars)
Available on Netflix and Youtube, this is a one hour and 48 minute long movie originally produced by Netfix. It is a decent war movie based on a siege that happened in the 1960s in Africa, pitting a company of Irish soldiers assigned to the United Nations against African Mercenaries led by French Foreign Legionnaires.
The movie is unique because the siege is not so well known, and the battle used different equipment than what we are used to seeing like FN FAL Rifles, MAT-49 Submachine Guns and even Fouga Magister Light Attack Aircraft. It was a bit strange though seeing the Africans using Human Wave Attacks in modern times supported by Machine Guns mounted on open topped vehicles, and occasionally also supported by Mortar and Aircraft. Nevertheless, good enough to watch.
RETURN TO THE USSS ATLANTA: DEFENDER OF GUADALCANAL (Three out of Five Stars)
Also known as “Dive to the USS Atlanta”, it is available on Netflix and DVD, this is a 52 minute documentary movie about a diving expedition to the USS Atlanta, a Light Cruiser that served with the United States (US) Navy in WW2. I found the pictures, film footages and accounts by the veterans about the USS Atlanta and the battles at Guadalcanal to be the most interesting part of this video.
There is a very good account of the Japanese “Gifu Battalion” that heroically resisted the Americans and how the battlefield looks like now. The Diving part of the documentary were also somewhat interesting as the Divers were well equipped, using advance equipment like Rebreathing apparatus, Side Scan Sonar and Diver Towing Vehicles. Overall, good enough to watch.
SPECTRAL (Three out of Five Stars)
Available on Netflix, this is a one hour and 48 minute long movie originally produced by Universal Pictures. A Science Fiction-Fantasy-Horror Action Thriller about seemingly supernatural beings assaulting the country of Moldova during a Civil War. The “action” and “thrill” part of the movie is pretty good, and there are interesting twists as to the real nature of the so-called “ghosts” in the movie. The Production Values are also pretty good, and there is a fair amount of military gear on show.
However, there are also some misses, like the supposed Delta Force soldiers didn’t act like Special Forces soldiers but more like ordinary grunts. Also towards the end, strange as to how the team could end up looking so slick, neat and modern after just improvising and cobbling weapons and gear together from their stuff. Nevertheless, good enough to watch.