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Ike: Countdown to D-Day
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10 from 2,359 votes
Release: 18 January 2005 (Netherlands) /

Ike: Countdown to D-Day

Genre: Drama, History, War
Director: Robert Harmon,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: This is the story of the senior-level preparations for the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 from the time of Dwight D. Eisenhower's appointment as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, to the establishment of the beachhead in Normandy. The film recounts many of the trials and tribulation Ike had to face, not the least of which were the many prima donnas surrounding him (Patton, Montgomery and especially de Gaulle) and the need for tact and diplomacy to bring all sides together for what would be the largest amphibious assault ever attempted. Written by garykmcd

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Critic Reviews

Before I saw this film I'd never have thought Tom Selleck's body type or acting skill were remotely apt for him to portray General Eisenhower. But Selleck pulls off the role admirably: this is the best playing of a role I've seen him manage. Kudos, Mr. Selleck - you made me forget you were Tom Selleck and had me, from the get-go, believing you were General Eisenhower.

The film isn't about the war, the SHAEF staff, or even the invasion itself: it's about Ike's superb organizing and planning brain and his ability, unique in history, to manage what was, to that date, the most unwieldy and potentially fractious warfare coalition ever to have joined hands as allies. Selleck and writer Chetwyn tell quite well how Eisenhower dealt with the frustrations and burden of his critical command.

Sure there are bits of created dialogue not to be found in the historical record and compressions of events and characters necessitated by the limits of cinematic storytelling, but on the whole this is a worthy film that achieves exactly what it set out to do: tell about Ike's grasp of the task set before him and his unparalleled aplomb in carrying it off.

The only egregious gaffe in the writing was the line spoken by Group Captain Stagg in which he tells Ike and the senior SHAEF staff that the low pressure storm systems, which boded ill for the launch of the invasion, depended on how much they'd be propelled by the jetstream. In 1944 the jetstream had not been discovered. Some prewar and wartime high altitude fliers had experience of the jetstream's effects, but meteorology had not yet identified the jetstream by name, or learned of its constant presence as prime determinor of weather aloft or at ground level. (If you think me wrong about this, see the PBS 'NOVA' episode about the late-1940's crash of an Avro Lancastrian airliner in the Andes Mountains.)

The only other objection I have to ALL films, to many otherwise comprehensive books, and to nearly all of the media reportage about the Normandy Invasion is the complete absence of mention of OPERATION NEPTUNE. NEPTUNE was the co-equal naval component of OVERLORD - which was the land component of the total SHAEF plan and operation. Without NEPTUNE there was, and could have been, no OVERLORD. Indeed the NEPTUNE planning gave SHAEF and Ike as many fits and starts and moments of intense anxiety as did any of the factors in the OVERLORD planning and execution. The two operations were, from the start of the invasion planning through its execution, akin to two hands being necessary to wash each other.

A note to the IMDb reviewer who posted here that Field Marshall Montgomery was humorous and well-loved: this is simply not so. Most of Monty's associates - both senior and junior and both British and American - found him intolerant, rigid, insufferable, and the antithesis of humorous. It was also Monty's grave flaw that he prided himself as god's gift to generalship - a trait he shared with America's General Patton and which put Monty and Patton at loggerheads with each other throughout the war (Ike put up with much nonsense from both of them, and yet Ike's leadership managed to harness their talents to the task of achieving Allied victory). In his own plodding way Monty was a fine field commander, but he lacked completely what are today known as "people skills" - which lack disqualified him from being appointed supreme allied commander, which Churchill recognized long before it was necessary to appoint one. It was Ike alone among Allied commanders who had in spades all the people skills Monty and Patton lacked, as well as a near-perfect grasp of the leadership the Allied coalition, stacked as it was with prima donnas from every Allied nation, required in order for victory to be achieved over Nazi Germany.

(By the way: let's all learn to spell "martinet," okay?)

Quibble: Timothy Bottoms' work as Ike's able SHAEF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith is too easygoing. General Smith suffered from painful stomach ulcers and those who knew him did not mistake his ulcerous irascibility! Bottoms misplays Smith as a soft-spoken foil or private confessor to Selleck's finely etched Ike. Perhaps this soft Smith is artistic license since the film is not about Smith but about Ike, but I still feel that Chetwyn and Bottoms might have tried to give General Smith and his ulcers and his legendary suffer-no-fools-whomsoever wrath their historical due.

Most importantly 'Ike: Countdown to D-Day' succeeds in a way that most historical films fail: it gives the sense that none of what we now as history was preordained or a done-deal, that the events that Ike dealt with were not easy or inevitable - or glorious. There is here real drama given life by fine portrayals of characters facing up to and dealing with the gravest doubts and tasks.

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