Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WTF? Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers (2011)




                It will come as no surprise to anyone who visits this site that I love war movies and I watch a ton of them.  Over fifty a year and that is a conservative estimate. I am not easily impressed, but I also have a high tolerance for bad war movies.  I usually know ahead of time what the buzz is on a movie, so I am seldom terribly disappointed.  I usually reserve extreme umbrage for films that abuse history in a callous way.  Movies like “Braveheart” piss me off to no end.  And the more critical acclaim they receive, the more angry I get.  That is one category of bad war movies – the ones that should have been much better and ruined a good topic.  The other type is the movies that are just plain bad because of a combination of poor production values, plot, acting, etc.  Sometimes this can be excused because of a low budget.  Hopefully at least the persons responsible were sincere and tried their best, although their best was crap.  “Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers” is in the second category of bad war movies, but it is so bad that there is no way the participants could have been sincere.  As far as doing their best, if they maxed out on this movie, they should never work on another movie again.  No amount of experience and improvement will ever make them competent.  To make this situation even worse, I had heard positive buzz about the film and had hopes it would be another “Saints and Soldiers”.  Nope.

                Since I sincerely hope no one reading this will be tempted to watch this movie, I will not bother to conceal any plot developments.  The film begins on June 5, 1944.  We are pompously informed that it is about a top secret mission.  “This story has remained hidden for 60 years.”  (By the end of the movie you will wish the story had remained hidden for another 60 years.)  Naturally, the mission is crucial to the Allied war effort.  We meet the main characters nose hairs (this movie takes extreme close-ups to a new level) at a camp in England.  The director had the avant-garde idea of hiding the microphone in a duffel bag in the corner of the tent.  You might want to put the English subtitles feature on.  (On second thought, don’t do that!)  If you are watching this movie to scope out 1940s military hair styles, you will be disappointed by all the shots that cut off the tops of the actor’s heads.


cinematography by Mr. Magoo
                Since they are Pathfinders, their mission is to parachute behind enemy lines and set up a beacon to pinpoint the landing zones for the paratroopers.  If they don’t succeed, their mates will land all over the place.  Historical spoiler alert: mission not accomplished!  Would you believe their already hazardous mission is complicated by factors beyond their control?  It seems they will be dropping on top of the crack German 91st Division which is hilariously described as “anti-parachute maneuver specialists”.  Before they leave, one of our heroes parachutes into his British girl friend’s front yard for supper.  The rest stay in the tent and regale us with stories that are more painful to hear than the English meal their Casanova buddy is forced to stomach. 

                The drop features a brief bit of “Band of Brothers” cinematography, as if we needed to be reminded of the other end of the spectrum.  They are immediately involved in a fire-fight, I guess because those anti-parachute maneuver specialists were waiting for them.  Of course, the total lack of noise discipline does not help.  There is a ridiculous scene where one of them plays dead to kill a German, but not the German’s comrade who is two feet away.  We are treated ( I use this word very loosely) to a series of increasingly nonsensical vignettes.  There is lots of aimless wandering around since they have no maps or compasses -  drat!  When they do encounter Germans, the combat is boring.  An unacceptable development for a movie that has nothing else going for it.  Perhaps the big set piece will save this sinking ship.

"I heard we're going to be facing anti-parachute
maneuver specialists" 
                A German vehicle stops near where they are hiding and then backs up as though the director had yelled that they had missed their mark.  One of the Americans comes running out screaming and shoots two of the enemy and then runs away.  At this seemingly provocative act, the Germans calmly drive off as though nothing had happened.  (I had to do the unthinkable and rewind the movie to see if I had seen what I had seen.)  With that close call inexplicably out of the way, they put up the beacon in (you guessed it) the nick of time.

                Have you ever seen a movie that is terrible in every single aspect?  This film has it all.  Horrible acting.  Atrocious dialogue.  Terrible cinematography sprinkled with some film school 101 stunts.  Music that is not only anachronistic, but it often does not fit the scene.  Sound that is best described as garbled.  Did I mention it took two directors to accomplish this?  (I would mention their names but they are in witness protection now.)  The combat has been better done by tweeners playing army in the woods with one of them filming on his cell phone.  Except their tactics would be more realistic than in this movie.  But by far the worst aspect of the movie is it was made to honor the Pathfinders who bravely played an important role in D-Day.  Talk about a backfire!  (By the way, the movie falsely claims that the role of the Pathfinders was unknown before this movie rectified that.  While the Pathfinders may have been given short shrift by history, they were not overlooked.)  Those heroes did not deserve this atrocity.  Thankfully, unlike the Windtalkers, this little known cinematic gem will not prevent a future attempt to do justice to the Pathfinders.  Soon please, I’d hate to go to my grave with this being the only movie I had seen on the Pathfinders!

GRADE = F-  

To see that I am not the only one with the opinion that this movie is total crap, go to:
All About War Movies

6 comments:

  1. I'm approaching your reviews backwards getting to the older ones later.
    You could have saved the experience. I warned you. :)
    As you may see, I couldn't even finish. The filming was soooo bad. There are plenty of Mr Magoo moments, half of the head missing.
    Here's the refresher.
    http://allaboutwarmovies.com/2011/08/08/pathfinders-in-the-company-of-strangers-2011-or-the-movie-that-doesnt-deserve-my-attention/
    It's one of the very worst. There isn't even a grade for it. Z?

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  2. I remembered your review, I watched it because there was a thread on the Armchair General forum where it was discussed and I needed to see it for myself. I am putting a link to your review so other scan read it.

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  3. Thanks for the link. I'll add yours to mine as well.
    We should do a worst of list one day. I've been watching two other equally "briliant" films recently. One was Serbian, the other I think American. I can't remember the titles.

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  4. This film was bad , I was shocked to hear Mark Bando a leading airborne historian was involved in this "film" it made no mention of the other pathfinder units involved in operation overlord commenting it was a hush hush clique, yeah right, I wish someone would make a real historically correct version of this ermm film

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  5. Please someone, anyone, use your skills, your contacts, your knowledge anything to ensure the memory and the story of these brave men, not to mention such an important aspect of history is not left to this child-like production . It was a farce, an insult to their memory and those of us who watched hoping to learn historical fact, which was clearly missing.

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  6. Oh, god... I know this review is 3 years old. This piece of crap is on Amazon Prime right now, and since I'm in another WW2 movie binge cycle again, I tried to watch it... I say tried because 3 times I tried to watch this. And could only watch 5 minutes at a time before wanting to chuck a brick at the tv. The first time I turned it on, I thought maybe I was burned out after re-binge watching band of brothers, so I turned it off. I tried to give it a try the second time, but the crappy sound, almost bleached out lack of color from crappy lighting, C-movie lack of pacing, and wooden voice over, not to mention the crappy soundtrack forced me to turn it off 5 minutes past where it picked up from shutting it off the other night. Now here it is day 3 and STILL thinking I wasn't be fair, I picked up again where I left off.... and shut it off again after a couple more extremely boring minutes of annoyance. I finally decided to google search this film and see if I was the only one driven to rage by this beyond low budget, amateurish crap.. I mean back in Highschool my friends and I made better paced, better acted, and better sounding WWII videos with public access cable tv equipment...at least we knew how to edit scenes that were paced faster... Wow for over 30 years I claimed that MetalStorm was the worst movie I ever saw (in fact the only one I ever walked out of) If I were in the theater paying for this I would have been back in my car 15 minutes after I arrived.

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