Captain Douglas (Michael Caine) is the British army leader who is ordered to lead a band of mercenaries into the desert. Their mission is to knock out an enemy fuel reserve. The inexperienced captain contends with a veteran Colonel (Nigel Green) who is enamored with using old history books to fight modern battles. Cyril Leech (Nigel Davenport) is the experienced mercenary hired by Brigadier Blore (Harry Andrews) to help guide Douglas and his group through the dangerous plot. Leech and Douglas have differences of opinion on how to successfully carry out the mission. As if the trouble with the Nazis wasn't enough, Brigadier Blore sells them out by tipping off the enemy through a spy. Douglas arid the few men he has left must survive the sweltering heat and the enemy gunfire in order to insure their survival.
A dirty little war
- Play Dirty review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 2
In the wake of "The Dirty Dozen", it occurred to Hollywood that if your bad guys are actual Nazis, your heroes can be literally anybody else whatsoever except possibly demons from Hell and still be fairly heroic by comparison. This film tries to combine that idea with the basic plot of "Lawrence Of Arabia" - a small group of maverick Allied soldiers must cross a huge expanse of North African desert in order to accomplish an almost impossible military objective.
Unfortunately it doesn't do it at all well. Under-characterized people with occasionally baffling motivations do predictable things. It's no spoiler to reveal that, if three trucks have to be ever so slowly and perilously winched up a cliff (huge nod to "The Wages Of Fear" there!), the third one won't make it, otherwise why bother with that scene? But the extent to which certain characters are doomed from the get-go is just plain laughable. One utterly irrelevant yet quite prominent character is literally in the movie purely in order to be pointlessly killed for no reason at all, thus demonstrating the futility of war. Or something.
Even worse, our heroes don't really do all that much fighting. The Nazis are sensible enough to be largely absent from the desert, and while a director like David Lean could do something interesting with that situation, we're in lesser hands here. People who don't like each other bicker, and once in a while they get to be even nastier to whoever else they happen to bump into. There is literally nobody in this film whose survival you particularly care about, and for a war film, there isn't a great deal of war. Full marks for explaining, in case you didn't already know, that war isn't usually a good idea, but zero for making any aspect of it look interesting, even in a bad way. And why is Nigel Green third-billed? He's barely in the movie, unlike a lot of people you'll see nowhere else because they can't act. Stodgy doom-laden tedium. Even Michael Caine doesn't seem to be engaged to his usual extent. Avoid.