“Everyman’s War” is a war movie made with a low budget that went straight to DVD. It was directed by Thad Smith and is the true story of his father Don who was with the 94th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. It was awarded “Best Narrative Feature” at the GI Film Festival in 2009. It is a sincere attempt to portray the combat experience.
The film is set in Germany in January, 1945 outside the town of Nennig. Through flashbacks we are introduced to a squad of GIs. There is a farm boy, an Italian-American criminal, a husband and father, a gas station attendant of German ancestry, and a saw mill worker (Smith). They bonded on the troop transport on the way to Europe. Sample dialogue: “We’re going to war. We’re going to fight the Nazis.” “And we’re going to kill every last one of them.”
The rest of the movie is basically your typical who-will-survive film. The answer to that question is – not many. When the German Ardennes Offensive breaks out, the squad is swept up in it. They are dug in when German tanks come at them. There is an intense firefight with lots of confusion (“the fog of war”). We see some of the action from the soldier’s point of view. Soon, Smith is on the run with most of his squad dead. He runs across a mine field and gets shot. He flashes back to his girlfriend at home. He gets up and stumbles back. A German decides not to shoot him (This is the second time he has gotten lucky like this.) He reaches the American line and the scene ends prematurely.
The film closes with a touching scene of Smith back home in the present. He is now married to his sweetheart and reminiscing about his buddies.
“Everyman’s War” is a low budget labor of love. It deserves credit for telling a soldier’s story. Unfortunately. the low budget impacts the quality of the film. The acting is average with Cole Carson as Smith doing a decent job. The combat scenes have a “Saving Private Ryan” feel to them and are not bad considering the budget. The script is problematic. Some of the dialogue is cheesy and there are some clichés that are lazy. For instance, the Italian-American who is a thief and scam artist. Also we get the classic guy who shows off a picture of his wife and kid and soon ends up dead. There is no real connection between the squad members. It is difficult to tell who dies when. A positive aspect of the film is its sympathetic depiction of the German soldiers. They are men just like us. They also speak their own language which is laudatory for such a low budget film.
It pains me to rate this movie only a D. Thad Smith honored his father and his father’s generation with the film and it is a good effort. But the fact is that money does show up on the screen and not enough money went into this film. It is good, relatively speaking. Unfortunately, I am not reviewing its relative value. Sincerity is nice and for that reason I do recommend you watch this film. Just don’t expect “Glory”.
P.S. Check out that poster. Another example of a poster unrelated to the content of the movie.
GRADE = D