War and Peace (1956) Review

Director: King Vidor

Genre(s): Drama, Romance, War

Runtime: 208 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

This three-and-a-half-hour melodrama set against the backdrop of the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars is an endurance test. This opulent epic is one of those films where you wish everybody would die so the picture can end. It even appears the critics were cool to this one, if the 43% score on Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed, which is a bit of a surprise, considering that they love boring movies that go on forever.

I’ve never read the book that War and Peace is based on (and I never will), but this flick feels like a Russian nationalist version of Gone with the Wind (1939) or something (Moscow? Atlanta? What difference does it make?). Much of it is all about rich people doing rich people stuff, and the audience is supposed to sympathize. Fortunately for the viewer, a war breaks out, giving him or her some carnage to gawk at. The war-related scenes are the best ones in the movie, but the battles are generally of low quality (despite their massive size) and sometimes the antics on the frontlines feel like a completely different film from the aristocratic bullshit the audience is otherwise subjected to.

The 1956 version of War and Peace features endless, weepy-eyed romance scenes that might cause a viewer to almost nod off. The long-winded dialogue usually attempts to be philosophical, with characters talking in ways that few normal humans would. With all the politics related to the war and all the romances and whatnot, this picture has a lot to juggle…and it drops every ball.

War and Peace is a trainwreck that the overwhelming majority of casual moviegoers will find little-to-no redeeming value in. It’s a torturously tedious hunk of junk with a big budget that only results in big-time boredom. If you’re looking for a good historical epic set during the Napoleonic Wars, I plead with you to watch Waterloo (1970) instead. War and Peace is for insomniacs only.

My rating is 3 outta 10.