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War Movies


In honor of the Academy Award nominations, and in particular the success of All Quiet on the Western Front, I gave a little bit of thought to how cinema might portray aspects of the Russia-Ukraine War:

The struggle for Snake Island lasted from February 24, when Russian naval forces seized the island, until the Russian retreat on June 30.

Strategically situated near the Danube Delta, the island was rapidly commanded the attention of both sides. One of the most symbolic moments of the war came when the Russian cruiser Moskva demanded the surrender of the island, only to receive a response that Ukrainian propaganda rapidly immortalized.

The sinking of the Moskva in mid-April is also one of the most iconic moments of the conflict.

Although the story lasts for longer than a few weeks and involves lots of moving parts, movies that focus on a bounded campaign can succeed even if their purview requires an extended time-line.  In Harms Way effectively covered the first year of the Pacific War (terrain that the more recent Midway also covered to less satisfactory extent), and Battle of Britain remains the definitive account of the several months of most intensive air combat between Germany and Great Britain.

I know that some folks will consider this frivolous, but trust me; national governments absolutely do not consider cinematic depictions of their wars to be a trivial matter. Since at least World War I, governments have devoted immense treasure (and sometimes blood) to getting their stories “right” on film. It is unsurprising, given the dramatic nature of many aspects of war, that films on the subject include some of the best movies ever made. The Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is already likely the most filmed conflict in the history of warfare, and so naturally we’re going to get some movies (and probably some premium television) that are going to shape a narrative on how we think about this war. Much as I look forward to all of the great academic books that will illuminate aspects of this conflict, I’m awfully curious about how filmmakers (from Russia, from Ukraine, and from the West) are going to put this war on screen.

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