Nostalgia, or a wistful longing for the past, is something we have all felt at some point in our lives. It is a desire to go back to a simpler time—back to the “good ole’ days.” Within the past four months, there has been a recent trend in movies looking towards a particular time in history. Fury, The Imitation Game and Unbroken are a string of new movies all featuring a unique glimpse into World War II.
Fury, written and directed by David Ayer, follows the journey of a five-man tank crew as they set out on the battlefront for the Allies. Nothing about their trials in the fight is glamorized; we see the raw emotion, we see the gruesome wounds, we feel the terror of war. The crew is made up of individuals from all walks of life: a battle-hardened sergeant, a faithful soldier, a rough and tough redneck, a patient driver and an innocent rookie. Instead of looking at the massive expanse of the war, the movie focuses on the lives of realistic and relatable people. These are not simply faces in uniforms; they are brothers, fathers, husbands, neighbors and dear friends.
This perspective carries on throughout Unbroken. Directed by Angelina Jolie, this memoir tells the incredible story of Olympian Louis Zamperini’s time in war. He survives what should have been a fatal plane crash, only to spend 47 days on the open sea in a life raft. His rescue was less than ideal, considering it landed him in a horrific Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. We witness the tortures and brutalities of being an American hero confined behind enemy lines, but we also see the war come to an end and Zamperini’s freedom redeemed.
While The Imitation Game also looks at a specific individual, unlike the others, this film reveals the importance of intelligence work away from the battlefront. Directed by Morten Tyldum, it shadows the life of a mathematician named Alan Turing and his process behind breaking Enigma, the series of top secret codes used by the Axis Powers to plan attacks.
All three of these movies expose the triumphs and pitfalls of life during World War II. As for nostalgia, why are these movies, depicting some of the darkest moments of our world’s history thriving in the box offices?
According to Daniel Binns, a communications professor at RMIT University, World War II movies “seem to clump together, and emerge at times of social or political tension or unrest.” Although our world is not currently at war, with tensions rising and the threat of terrorist attacks hovering over our heads, it makes sense for us as a culture to look back upon wartime.
Also, World War II veterans, known as “The Greatest Generation,” are rapidly becoming extinct. According to The National WWII Museum, of the 16 million American troops that served in WWII, less than 1 million are alive today. At a devastating rate of approximately 492 veterans a day, our nation’s heroes are being laid to rest along with their memories of the war that shook humanity’s existence. These movies, in a way, are a last effort to acknowledge and recognize the incredible sacrifices these veterans made for others. These are our fathers and grandfathers; they risked their lives for a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.
This recent trend is not about romanticizing war, but it is about uncovering the story behind the soldier—it is about us as humans realizing everyone has something they consider worth fighting for.