The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film (Hardcover)
“A marvelous bombshell of a book, by one of our most formidably knowledgeable and insightful writers on film, it is filled with surprises and witty asides. Though Thomson is quick to pounce on the hypocrisies and historical omissions of some of these war movies, there is nothing compromised about his own daredevil judgments. We are in the hands of a master critic/essayist.”—Phillip Lopate
From one of the greatest living writers on film, a magisterial look at a century of battle depicted on screen, and a meditation on the twisted relationship between war and the movies.
In The Fatal Alliance the acclaimed film critic David Thomson offers us one of his most provocative books yet—a rich, arresting, and troubling study of that most beloved genre: the war movie. It is not a standard history or survey of war films, although Thomson turns his typically piercing eye to many favorites—from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Bridge on the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan. But The Fatal Alliance does much more, exploring how war and cinema in the twentieth century became inextricably linked. Movies had only begun to exist by the beginning of World War I, yet in less than a century, had transformed civilian experience of war—and history itself—for millions around the globe. This reality is the moral conundrum at the heart of Thomson’s book. War movies bring both prestige and are so often box office blockbusters; but is there something problematic at how much moviegoers enjoy depictions of violence on a grand scale, such as Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down, or even Star Wars? And what does this truth say about us, our culture, and our changing sense of warfare and the past?
About the Author
David Thomson is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Biographical Dictionary of Film, biographies of Orson Welles and David O. Selznick, and the pioneering novel Suspects, which featured characters from film. He lives in San Francisco, California.
"A marvelous bombshell of a book, by one of our most formidably knowledgeable and insightful writers on film, it is filled with surprises and witty asides. Though Thomson is quick to pounce on the hypocrisies and historical omissions of some of these war movies, there is nothing compromised about his own daredevil judgments. We are in the hands of a master critic/essayist." — Phillip Lopate
"One of the finest living stylists in the English language."
— The Guardian
“Persistently, thoughtfully questioning what filmmakers intend, what conversations they’re accidentally stepping into and how we as moviegoers are implicated as war-story consumers. Thomson is exceedingly well-equipped for the job . . . . bracing and surprising.” — Los Angeles Times
“This stellar book is about how filmmakers simplify the bloody business of war and why audiences buy into it. Readers who enjoy vigorous arguments and good writing will love this book.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Praise the gods for giving us a writer with a deep moral sense and an epigrammatic prose style who writes as exquisitely about war as he does about film. Thomson's book brims with striking observations and provocative readings of crucial films, the great and the forgotten, from All Quiet on the Western Front to Apocalypse Now to Black Hawk Down and scores more. The Fatal Alliance is an absorbing, uproarious and essential book -- about war, about film, about us. And my God, the man can write!" — Mark Danner, author of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War and Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War
“Thomson’s own genius is his ability to remain one of the leading authorities on cinematic history, without shying away from the controversial. Cinephiles seeking provocative arguments will appreciate his work.” — Library Journal
"Interesting and thought-provoking . . . . Insightful and important.” — Booklist
“With each new book from David Thomson . . . I have the same sensation I have when I enter a dark movie theatre: Anticipation, delight, curiosity . . . . a brilliant writer who writes better about film than almost everybody else . . . . not just a book about how films have treated war, but a fascinating, coruscating study of how films have shaped our minds and feelings about something that terrifies us, grips us . . . . What can I say? David Thomson, you’ve done it again.” — James Grissom
“Insightful, fascinating, and educational . . . . The author's examination of why these types of films continue to resonate, despite their bleak and catastrophic subject matter, is a must read." — PopCultureGuy