The Big Parade

The Big Parade ★★★★★

Just the other day I was saying how disinterested I was in war movies, then a movie like this comes along and totally changes my mind. Vidor is such an incredible director of grand spectacle, yet he's always just as interested in small, human moments. He often keeps one shot going for a remarkably long time just to watch the characters on screen interact in small ways. It goes a long way to creating a powerful emotional connection in the viewer. The fact that the film is so evenly split between the romance section and the war section utilizes this contrast of big and small moments perfectly; we spend the first half of the film becoming invested in these characters, and the second half in terror, watching them in the middle of overwhelming battle.

And the battle scenes are simply jaw-dropping. Vidor shoots not to instill a sense of excitement, but of doom. The first battle scene, we watch soldiers walk in a line and, in the background, simply drop dead as snipers pick them off. Vidor's smoke-filled trenches look like they were shot on the moon, or perhaps in hell. The chaos comes, eventually, but it's delayed. First Vidor shows us the misery of war, then the terror.

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