Monday, August 10, 2009

Sergeant York (1941) 7.5/10


Sergeant York relives the story of Alvin C. York (Gary Cooper), a drunk with serious anger issues, who turns his life to Christianity following a life changing event (in the movie being struck by lightening, in real life having his best friend die in a bar brawl), and in return becoming a conscientious objector to the war in which becomes a hero for. Much in the same respect of later films like Gallipoli, Sergeant York is told in two parts. The first hour or so follows the life transforming events that shape him. His early life of booze, women, and fighting, the meeting of his true love, and future wife, Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), his attempt at getting a home, and the ultimate life turning event that leads him to religion.

Overall the tale of Sergeant York, which benefited from many events that took place in 1941 and a growing pro-war sentiment, is one of a man who anyone, whether they be religious or not, can look up to. He doesn't fight in the war in order to kill, or to protect this greater notion of freedom, but rather, as he states himself, to hasten the war in order to save as many lives as possible. The tale of Alvin York is at the same time the tale of a man who better understood why he was fighting in a war than those around, and as such he has a greater cause and purpose than those.

At the same time Hawks and Cooper team up well to capture the simple, straight forward, York, who sees what he does as a way of saving as many people as possible. The writers back this up with a full blown epic of a character story, not missing any important details in the life of York, and instead allow his character to grow throughout the story. This, in turn, allows the audience to see what made York the historic figure he is today, and at the same time not be a tale of war, violence, nor an overbearing sense of duty/honor. To the benefit of all those who watch it.

On the downside Sergeant York runs a bit long for its story, enjoying more mystical aspects at times than the way things really played out. Yet the real life involvement of Alvin York helps keep the story level headed, and to the very point he tried to make throughout his life, both pre and post war.

Overall Sergeant York tells a great tale of a man who it is impossible to separate from his ideas, and whether or not you agree with him, it is easy to be captivated by his tale.

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