The Young Lions (DVD, 2006, Widescreen; Sensormatic) Reviews
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The Young Lions (DVD, 2006, Widescreen; Sensormatic)

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The Young Lions (1958)

Apr 25, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cast, script, story, cinematography

Cons:both a ripoff and an improvement over "From Here to Eternity"

"The Young Lions" is a lengthy war epic that focuses not on battles, but on the people that have been forced to fight them. The theme of war as an evil, destructive and pointless force is well-developed, and the quality of the script and story more than compensates for minor problems.

"The Young Lions" tells the story of three soldiers. Marlon Brando plays a German lieutenant whose growing disillusionment with war and the German cause parallels the decline of the Axis war machine. Montgomery Clift plays a Jewish private who must overcome harassment from his fellow soldiers. Dean Martin plays a Broadway entertainer who is racked with guilt for trying to avoid fighting in the front lines.

Dean Martin has the weakest character. He is clearly in his late thirties, but feels so guilty over not serving in the trenches that he falls to drinking and abuse of his girlfriend. Martin doesn't seem comfortable, looking as if he'd rather be somewhere else.

Clift effectively underplays his character. Clift usually landed good roles due to his box office appeal, and his judgement of scripts. He never tied himself to a studio with a long term contract, enabling him to take only the roles that he wanted.

Clift's character has great similarity to the soldier that he played in "From Here to Eternity" (1953), his most successful film. Both characters are soldiers in World War II, both have romances, both become boxers. Both characters desert their units, and have jerks for commanding officers (that eventually get their comeuppance).

However, "The Young Lions" doesn't rip off "From Here to Eternity" so much as improve it. It is true, though, that Clift's desertion here is not adequately explained. Also, perhaps he is made too much of a hero when rescuing his fellow soldiers (and former tormentors).

Brando has the best role. His German accent isn't quite right, but he nails his character perfectly. Torn between duty and revulsion of his actions, he soon has the unhappy look of a condemned man.

"The Young Lions" is well directed. There's not a scene wasted, and although lengthy, the film never drags. The Germans are portrayed as men reluctantly following an evil cause, rather than as murderous stereotypes. The script and cinematography is also excellent. (86/100)



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