Cinema: Backward Front

Battle of the Bulge harks back to that bitter morn in mid-December 1944 when Hitler's Panzer divisions mounted the last great German offensive of World War II. Tiger tanks and infantry spat destruction against the Allied invaders, thrusting them back through the Ardennes forest along a lightly guarded 85-mile front to gouge out a bleeding chunk of Luxembourg, France and eastern Belgium. What happened at the Bulge? According to a trio of Hollywood script writers, the Allies were caught flat-footed because nobody would listen to Henry Fonda.

Fonda plays a folksy intelligence officer whose outlook remains sensible and somehow civilian. This, the...