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15 top war movies: 'The Winds of War'

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"The Winds of War" (1983)


It’s rare to find a film that will depict all the events and circumstances leading up to a famous battle, then stop before major warfare breaks out. This is what The Winds of War describes in full detail: the incidents and decisions that led to the outbreak of World War II. Not only does this mini-series feature an amazing cast topped by Robert Mitchum, it is incredibly blatant about certain parts of history rarely remembered. For example, as an American ambassador, Mitchum’s character has personal contact with the U.S. President on more than one occasion. He has the opportunity to see the double-dealing Franklin Roosevelt from various angles, especially his strange refusal to aid European allies to defeat the Nazis and “strike while the iron is hot.” Instead Roosevelt utilized the confusion surrounding the war to fuel a total lack of opposition for his re-elections (which outnumbered what was considered legal in the U.S. Constitution).

While Mitchum deals with the sneaky, under-handed actions of Roosevelt and total American withdrawal from moral intervention in world affairs, his family learns firsthand about racial prejudice and the forthcomings of the Holocaust through travel and military commands. The Winds of War offers side stories and character interweaving together with bold re-creations of historical moments and events. There is never a dull scene, like when Mitchum is presented with a second chance for love or when the situation in Europe reaches an unavoidable peak of chaos. Unfortunately, The Winds of War miscast Ali McGraw as Natalie; the actress gives a disappointingly flat and boring performance as one of the most intelligent personae in the story. Nevertheless, Mitchum’s impressive talent and how he completely commandeers his role compensate for this visible flaw in an otherwise exceptional war film. The plot and production continues in War and Remembrance, which chronicles World War II and concludes the journeys of all the characters.

The Winds of War (as well as War and Remembrance) is available on DVD wherever movies are sold in Fresno and online; it also can be rented for free from local libraries.