Ghost Army

Films in Focus: Hacksaw Ridge, Dunkirk, Anthropoid, Allied and Ghost Army

Seventy years after the conflict ended, there still seems to be no shortage of WWII-inspired films based on true events. Scheduled to open in theaters on November 4th is Hacksaw Ridge, which follows the exploits of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to ever earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. According to Variety, “The film, directed by Mel Gibson, is set during the bloody Battle of Okinawa when Doss saved 75 men without carrying a weapon on the battlefield. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who didn’t believe in killing, even in times of war, was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the frontlines without a weapon.

Set to open in July 2017 is Dunkirk, a Christopher Nolan film, which examines the hasty evacuation of Allied forces from the continent of Europe in May 1940, following their rout by the Wehrmacht as they marched towards the sea. Set on location in Dunkirk, France, principal photography commenced on May 23rd, 2016; in the months following, production will proceed in Urk, Netherlands, Swanage and Weymouth in Dorset, United Kingdom and Los Angeles, United States. In the course of shooting, Dunkirk operates under the codename “Bodega Bay”. The film is being shot on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large format film stock. Nolan reconditioned actual warships for the shoot, including the French Navy destroyer Maillé-Brézé, and reportedly spent US$5 million of the budget on a vintage aircraft so as to attach it with IMAX cameras before crashing it on-screen.

And then there’s Anthropoid, which is based on the true story of two Czechoslovak soldiers who sent to assassinate the head of the SS in 1942. SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was the Reich’s number three and main architect of the Final Solution.

Allied is a Robert Zememckis film set in 1942, starring Max (Brad Pitt), a French-Canadian spy, who falls in love and marries a French agent Marianne (Marion Cotillard), after a mission in Casablanca. Max is notified that Marianne is likely a Nazi spy and begins to investigate her.  Allied is set to debut on November 23rd.

Further down-the-road is Warmer Brothers’ Ghost Army, which is based on Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles’ non-fiction book The Ghost Army Of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived The Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, And Other Audacious Fakery. Produced by award-winning actor, Bradley Cooper, and likely featuring him in it as well, the film isn’t slated to open until late 2017. According to Entertainment, “The story follows the true events of a top-secret group of artists and designers—”Cecil B. DeMille warriors,” as they were called—recruited to fool the Nazis during World War II. Using diversions such as inflatable tanks, phony radio traffic, and dummy soldiers, the troops managed to save thousands of Allied lives by tricking the enemy into thinking their flimsy ghost army was the real thing.”

A similarly conceived film tackling the subject of the Ghost Army was released a few years ago and is available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it will be interesting to see how a new version, coming hot-on-the-heels of the first movie, can offer new insight on the master deception.


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