War movies have been around nearly as long as film itself, but every now and then the genre seems to spark a new resonance in the public imagination.
The late 1980s saw a spate of Vietnam War movies (
Now the recent successes of "Unbroken" and "American Sniper" are capping one of the strongest years for war movies in recent memory, once again proving the genre's capacity for relevance.
"Unbroken," Angelina Jolie's biopic about the Olympic runner turned World War II bombardier and POW Louis Zamperini (
Although the film garnered mixed reviews as a dutiful but wearying portrait of a man on the battlefield, audiences gave it an A-minus on Cinemascore, apparently responding to the themes of old-fashioned grit and determination.
"Unbroken" and "Sniper" come on the heels of David Ayer's in-the-trenches World War II drama "Fury," which was a solid box-office performer in spite of grisly subject matter and R-rated violence. Earlier this year,
It's hard to say what specifically makes any movie catch on, let alone a period film, but there seem to be several factors at work here. In tackling the war on terror, films like "American Sniper" — and its spiritual siblings "Lone Survivor,"
Films such as "Unbroken" and "Fury," meanwhile, offer the same appeal via a different approach--they help us understand the origins of modern warfare, using the prism of the past to allow us to examine the more fraught conflicts of the present.
War is much more complicated than even the most sophisticated films can show. But for a nation that has been involved in numerous military entanglements over the last century — and which has seen its toughest questions go unresolved on the fields of battle — there's something cathartic, if not comforting, about engaging with the subject in our movie theaters.