North Africa, World War II. British soldiers on the brink of collapse push beyond endurance to struggle up a brutal incline. It's not a military objective. It's The Hill, a manmade instrument of torture, a tower of sand seared by a white-hot sun. And the troops' tormentors are not the enemy, but their own comrades-at-arms.
You're a clever bag of tricks, you are, Roberts. Hot and sweaty, bold and brutal, Sidney Lumet's The Hill is a tour de force of incarceration based cinema. Story has five new inmates sent to a North African based British Army Prison, the centre piece of which is a manufactured hill that is used as a punishment tool. The new recruits, headed by Joe Roberts (Sean Connery), quickly fall foul of the superiors, especially the venomous Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), but these boys wont take it lying down... With no music and Oswald Morris' monochrome photography ensuring atmosphere is perpetually claustrophobic, the harsh edges of the story strike hard. Be it overt bullying by those in charge - pushing men evidently too far - or racism, Lumet melds everything together superbly for harsh viewing experience, tightening the screws every quarter of film. Come the shattering conclusion it's a merciful release for the viewers, a chance to start breathing properly again, even if your mind is ablaze with a number of thoughts. This is very much an actors picture, which seems a given since it's adapted by Ray Rigby from his own play, but a mightily strong cast do sterling work with the tinderbox screenplay. Ossie Davis, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Roy Kinnear, Alfred Lynch and Michael Redgrave fill out the other key roles, each giving their characters vivid depth without resorting to histrionics and scenery chewing. Which of course is a testament to Lumet's skills as a director of actors. Slow burning intensity bristles with the corrosive nature of machismo fuelled authority, an unforgettable film and highly recommended to those who have not sampled it yet. 9/10