Ike: Countdown to D-Day

My boss praised this movie so highly that I had to check it out; he and I share an abiding interest in WWII, and most of the war movies he’s suggested before I liked (though Kelly’s Heroes, eh), so I keenly anticipated this movie. Tom Selleck, of all people, plays Ike; the only other face most people would recognize would be James Remar (Dutch Shultz from Cotton Club) as Omar Bradley. The movie assumed you know your history; while most would recognize Churchill (Ian Mune) and Montgomery (Bruce Phillips), most of the American general staff is lesser known and not explained or barely introduced here. Mostly the film concerns itself with the wheeling and dealing that went on behind the scenes leading up to D-Day, with Ike maneuvering himself to be the supreme commander, and then going about appeasing everyone else and making them feel important even though he’s the one in charge. Ike was chosen as much for his skill as for his diplomacy, it’s true, but here Ike is almost Buddhist in his ability to put up with everyone; he’s inhumanly patient and humble, which are traits he possessed, but not to this degree. True, Ike had to deal with pushy Patton (Gerald McRaney) uber-prick Montgomery and the most intransigent man this side of Hitler, DeGaulle (George Shevtsov); but even Jesus didn’t have this much patience. Ike tends to come off as a little wishy-washy, which the man who led the invasion of western Europe certainly wasn’t. It’s rare in a historical movie to get likenesses exact, but other than Montgomery no one looks even remotely like the real article; this didn’t bother me with Ike, but Churchill’s lack of familiarity (it didn’t even sound like him) kept throwing me, and I lost patience with DeGaulle, who was physically imposing in real life and is a slight, prissy man here (instead of a bulky prissy man in reality). The supporting players are all lively (and mostly irritating), but Selleck is so laid-back as Ike he never takes command of the movie like he should; thus the movie never really gels, and what should have been a fascinating look at the compromises needed to weld an international coalition ends up turning out more like a tolerant father dealing with petulant children. There’s a great story to be told here, but this movie doesn’t really do it justice. Not that many of you were clamoring to see this (it’s on Netflix streaming), but honestly, don’t bother. There are many fine WWII films, watch one of those. Or Band of Brothers or The Pacific. September 29, 2013