Two Men Went to War

In 1942, before the full fury of World War II rears its ugly head, two hawkish British dentists take it upon themselves to invade France for the British Empire. Huh? Such is the premise for Two Men Went to War, a whimsical movie based on the novel Amateur Commandos by Raymond Foxall, based in turn on actual events. Make no mistake, this is in no way a historical retelling, or an accurate depiction of war. As told, it is a light comedy of errors. Infiltrating the German lines is hard enough, and it seems that the only way these two bumbling idiots can do it is by pure luck. Sgt. Peter King (Kenneth Cranham, Shiner, RPM) is the grizzled World War I veteran, and Pvt. Leslie Cuthbertson (Leo Bill, 28 Days Later, All or Nothing) are the two dentists in question.

Cuthbertson is longing to make a tangible difference. He dreams of throwing grenades and shooting rifles, not pulling teeth. King catches him messing around in an armory shed. King's World War I experiences were not satisfying to him, and he is now too old for any glorious heroics. He decides to take matters into his own hands and orders Cuthbertson along with him as they make their way to France. The first two acts of Two Men Went to War are not that interesting. It actually moves pretty slowly, punctuated by something that the duo gets right by accident. Director John Henderson (Loch Ness, Leprechauns) wants to establish the relationship between the two men, and to show that as much as these guys like war, it may not be what they expect. Relationshipwise, there is not much of a friendship between the two men.

Cuthbertson is very new. He cares little for discipline, and frequently talks back. However, he does have strong ideals and can be very enthusiastic. King really despises Cuthbertson for his near-insubordination. Cuthbertson also probably reminds King of a younger version of himself. Bill is so annoying that people want to reach into the screen and strangle him. Yet, it is worth it to stick through their petty bickering, because they slowly begin to understand each other. Screenwriters Richard Everet (Abrafaxe) and Christopher Villiers do a pretty good job of creating these two characters. They are just annoying enough to be enjoyable, and do not cross the line to bother the viewer.

The real fireworks, literal and figurative, when the two finally encounter some Germans. By then, they are a crack commando unit (well, relatively) ready to take on anything. They succeed, but not quite how they expect to. And their story is so bizarre and ridiculous that nobody believes them. Instead, they believe that the two went AWOL because they were afraid of fighting. Henderson also switches every so often to a harried Churchill (David Ryall, Unconditional Love, Mad Cows) and Maj. Merton (Derek Jacobi, Gosford Park, The Body) trying to figure out what to do on a more macro level. Everything wraps together nicely in the end, which does make up for a slow beginning.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 49 minutes, Not Rated but contains some violence and mild language, a PG-13 or possibly an R.

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