Thursday, June 9, 2016
Sergeant York tells the truly fascinating story of Sergeant Alvin York who performed an unbelievable feat of battle during World War I. Unfortunately the film does not tell this in an especially fascinating way. It is weighed down by its leading performance with Gary Cooper as York. Cooper is one actor I've never warmed up to, there's a few performances where his excessively low key style works, but this is not one of them. There is pivotal change in the early part of the film where York goes from an angry lout to a good Christian, but this is portrayed without nuance by Cooper's turn. He just goes from a soft spoken laid back guy who punches people to a soft spoken laid back pacifist who ends up shooting people. His performance severely hinders the first two acts of the film. The final act is the war where the a battle sequences are far less visceral and impressive than All Quiet on The Western Front which came out almost ten years before this film. This film though is part propaganda(coming out shortly before the U.S. entered WWII), so the war scenes, though they show death, are never too brutal. In doing that they're never excessively engaging either. Altogether the film isn't terrible by any means, but a far more impressive film seems possible given the subject matter.