The War Game (1965)

It's ironic that Peter Watkins' movie "The War Game" won the Oscar for best documentary, since the entire film is based on a premise...or rather, hypothesized. As the cold war raged on and the thoughts of thermal nuclear warfare were on everyone's mind, Watkins used some heavily influential creations to show what the next world war would look like.
This film is entirely plausible, and actually still remarkably relevant considering the nuclear comments that never seem to cease in the news. Yet even though the film is entirely made up and comprised of suppositions, there is an unshakable core which, at its most naked state, is frightening.
The movie begins with an explosion of facts—Watkins focuses the most on Russian's chance of attacking Britain and what consequences that would have. There would be massive evacuations, which would result in thousands upon millions of people sharing houses with not enough food or medical attention.
The film is short, running less than an hour; but Watkins manages to pack grisly images and haunting thoughts into every second of it. From a woman explaining to the camera that all the water her family has left is in a bathtub, slowly running out; to a re-creation (or would it be pre-creation?) of an apocalyptic fire storm accompanied with damaging winds—"The War Game" is a shockingly good movie.
Now this isn't to say that Watkins doesn't indulge himself too deeply. In fact, certain scenes drag on longer than they need to—the director is just insuring that the point of the film isn't missed by drilling it into his viewers' brains. It's condescending, yet completely forgivable.
There is a dark humor that is tacked onto the end of the film, at first it seems like something that would predate Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". This thought would continue as Watkins uses quotes from priests and preachers telling their congregation that nuclear war could be a good thing because bombs are our friends.
Retaliation is a point that is brought up. Watkins and his team ask people on the street if they would want to kill 2 million Russians if Russian first killed 2 million of them. Most people indignantly said yed. But some thought they might want to see justice done; but it probably isn't the wisest idea.
Shot in a stunning black-and-white; "The War Game" is sensational and dizzyingly brilliant. For such a simple premise to be turned into a film that transcends its genre and becomes simple "a war film" is a staggering achievement.
Watkins seems to draw a lot of his inspiration from Kubrick because several of the scenes in "The War Game" ring true to "Paths of Glory".
It's a movie about the time we live in and the time we left behind us. If anything, "The War Game" proves that the past haunts us...something that we are never rid of.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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