Cinema: A Private Affair

The Dirty Dozen is the definitive enlisted man's picture. In its view, World War II was a private affair in which officers were hypocritical, stupid or German, and only the dogfaced soldier was gutsy enough to be great. In this film, the lopsided interpretation works largely because of a fine cast and a taut plot that closes the credibility gap.

A few months before Dday, the U.S. Army decides to send a suicide squad behind enemy lines to blow up a Nazi officers' quarters. Leading the mission is a misfit major (Lee Marvin). His twelve...

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