WINTER 1944 and a small unit of American intelligence soldiers are based on the front-line in the Ardennes forest.

With army top-brass frustrated by the lack of good intelligence, they have been specially selected for their high IQs. But that counts for little in war and within months half are dead.

The rest are tasked with moving towards the German lines, taking a prisoner and reporting on a possible counter-attack in their sector.

But their mission becomes confused as they find a German unit just as fed up with the war as they are.

Instead of shooting each other, they end up in a snowball fight and singing Christmas carols.

A plot is hatched to allow the Germans to surrender – but only after a pretend shoot-out has been staged, which goes horribly wrong.

With an ensemble cast including Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise and Kevin Dillon, director Keith Gordon delivers an effective look at the baffling, bloody and pointless machinations of war.

But the voiceover style used to unfold the plot feels like a little bit of an excuse for relatively poor characterisation of the individuals in the unit and I’m not sure I was particularly bothered about their fate by the end. In fact I struggled to work out exactly who was who the whole way through. Watchable but not sure it really deserved this 20th anniversary re-release.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18)

DISCREDITED journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) accepts a commission from reclusive industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer).

The old man is haunted by the disappearance of his great-niece Harriet almost 40 years ago and hopes the hack will be able to deduce who abducted and killed the teenager. Blomkvist begins his investigation, aided by computer expert Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). The unlikely sleuths follow a trail of secrets and lies, trusting no one as skeletons tumble out of the Vanger closet. Familiarity breeds nagging comparisons rather than contempt in David Fincher’s English-language remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Arriving just two years after Niels Arden Oplev’s acclaimed adaptation, this version oozes style right from the eye-catching opening credit sequence. Fincher’s film is certainly eye-catching but also emotionally cold. Craig’s charisma-free portrayal is scarred by half-hearted attempts at an accent. Fincher remains faithful to Stieg Larsson’s novel, including unsettling scenes of abuse, but does depart dramatically from the text for a conventional ending.