Review: Too Late the Hero (1970, Robert Aldrich)

It's World War II. A British army base on a Japanese island is the starting point for a special mission to capture and destroy a Japanese radio transmitter. Tensions and reconsiderations among the squad threaten the mission's success...

In this war action film production featuring Michael Caine and Cliff Robertson, we witness a half united, half torn apart group of characters entering combat with the enemy, the jungle, and themselves. As with many of these older war movies, the depiction might be a bit wooden or maybe naive in some regards, but overall "Too Late a Hero" is miles away from being dumb or flat. Quite the contrary. It's full of little and not so little sub-plots going on between the men, there's some wild action, it's gritty and gory at times, and touches on psychological horror. Henry Fonda makes a great appearance at the beginning of the movie, Caine and Robertson both play their roles with routine perfection, and all other performances are solid, too.

It is a thrilling action movie, and it does tackle some important subjects - like integrity versus responsibility, resilience and belief under pressure, nihilism of war - but we kind of don't really know what we're seeing here. Is it really an action movie, or more of an epic? Is it a psychological treatment? Or was it ultimately just about personal overcoming and heroism?

"Too Late the Hero" is a bit of a mixed bag - but it's entertaining, thrilling, and thought provoking, nonetheless. And, yeah, it's really gritty at times.

Verdict: Somehow unfocused, but still very well worth a watch. 6/10



Trailer video:


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