The Young Lions ★★★½

Building a complex, remarkably nuanced, generously unbiased portrait of WWII life as a soldier tracing the journeys of three men through war-time life, Dmytryk and Anhalt construct a quietly sentimental, humanist portrayal of the harmful consequences of war on the minds and hearts of young men. Most impressive is the film's portrait is its commendably, and surprisingly, even-handed contrasting and paralleling of the narratives of Martin and Clift's American G.I. characters and Brando's Nazi, presenting Brando's character as an idealistic, wholesome young man with entirely admirable intentions rather than a blindly hateful caricature of Nazi evil.

The film begins by contrasting the relatively easy, uncomplicated entry the two Americans have to the war with the early, and pointedly harsh, beginning Brando is faced with, establishing the contrast between the Americans' freedom and Brando's tragic loss of idealism and growing disillusionment, reduced to a reluctant commitment to patriotic duty.

The film adds appreciable emotional depth and psychological reality to rote aspects like Clift's boot camp hazing experiences and Brando's flirtations with a radicalized French woman in occupied Paris, benefitting from the impressive depth of Clift and Brando's performances to bring relevance and emotional immediacy to their characters' fates.

The film's black and white CinemaScope cinematography is used to impressive, stylistic superlatives in the battle sequences, the African sequences is a masterful show of practical effects and stark, desolate desert imagery while the German section effectively captures the destruction of a city hollowed out by the ceaseless destruction of war, both in the grandness of the aerial attacks and the despair evident in the sparse dinginess of the once opulent apartment of the Captain's wife.

The ending emphasizes the film's unflinching condemnation of the inhumanity of war, forcing the moralistic, wholesome American heroes to defeat Brando's admirably complex, morally conscious , and ethically evolved German soldier, defying simplistic characterization a of Germans as uniformly spellbound and blood thirsty.