Watch The Mountain Road
In 1960, director Michael Heizer released The Mountain Road, a war film set in World War II-era China. Starring Hollywood legend James Stewart as Major Baldwin, the film follows a small band of American soldiers who must slow down the Japanese army's advancement by blowing up a strategic bridge in the mountains. Along the way, they encounter several Chinese civilians who have been victimized by the war and struggle to reconcile their mission with the human cost of their actions.
The film opens with a scene of the Japanese army marching through a small Chinese village, signaling the severity of the situation. The American soldiers, led by Major Baldwin, arrive in the mountains, tasked with destroying a bridge that is vital to the Japanese army's transportation of supplies. Their efforts to do so are met with several obstacles, including treacherous terrain and attacks from the Japanese army. What follows is a tense and emotional journey as the soldiers navigate the difficult landscape and question the morality of their mission.
One of the central conflicts of the film is between Major Baldwin's military duty and his compassion for the Chinese civilians they encounter. Baldwin is initially portrayed as a hardened soldier who is determined to complete the mission at all costs. However, as he witnesses the suffering of the Chinese people at the hands of the Japanese army, he begins to question the morality of their actions. At one point, he tells his men, "This is bigger than a bridge. This is about people's lives," signaling his growing realization that war is not just about winning battles and completing missions.
One of the most compelling characters in the film is a Chinese woman named Su-Mei, played by Lisa Lu. Su-Mei is introduced when the American soldiers take her and several other villagers as hostages, believing that they may be able to provide valuable information about the Japanese army's movements. Su-Mei emerges as a strong, independent woman who is fiercely protective of her fellow villagers. As she and Major Baldwin develop a bond, she becomes a voice of reason, questioning the morality of the war and the actions of both the Japanese and American armies. Su-Mei provides a nuanced portrayal of a Chinese woman who is caught in the crossfire of a global conflict, highlighting the human cost of war on marginalized communities.
The film is also noteworthy for its stunning cinematography, particularly in the scenes that take place in the mountains. The filmmakers make effective use of the natural landscape, showcasing the beauty and danger of the mountainous terrain. The scenes of the soldiers trekking through the mountains are gripping and suspenseful, adding to the tension and emotional weight of the film.
The Mountain Road is a thought-provoking war film that grapples with the morality of conflict and the human cost of war. The performances of James Stewart, Lisa Lu, and Glenn Corbett are all excellent, and the film's stunning cinematography adds to its emotional impact. The film's nuanced portrayal of Chinese civilians caught in the middle of a global conflict makes it a standout in the war film genre, and its themes remain relevant today in our increasingly polarized geopolitical landscape.
The Mountain Road is a 1960 drama. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.2.