Battle of the Bulge: Winter War review – a fight until the bitter end

This stilted, herky-jerky tale of Yankee heroism – written and directed by, as well as starring, Steven Luke – seems to be a sequel to Luke’s earlier second world war saga, Wunderland, a work not well-reviewed nor widely seen. In this instalment, Luke’s wholesome, square-jawed protagonist Lt Cappa and his ethnically diverse yet strangely interchangeable-looking men are defending a field hospital just behind the frontline near Lanzerath, Belgium, as the titular Battle of the Bulge rages in December 1944. The larger goal for the allies, represented here mostly by Tom Berenger and Billy Zane talking in a tent as they play Maj McCulley and Gen Omar Bradley, is to take control of fuel supplies to the Germans who might be on the verge of winning the war. Plus, there’s a squad of American MPs knocking around with almost comically exaggerated accents who turn out to be German spies. Luckily, Cappa and his comrades sense there’s something off about this crew, especially when they try to commandeer their jeeps and suggest leaving the wounded behind to die.

Apparently, Winter War was shot in Minnesota, Illinois and South Dakota, which would account for why nearly everything seems to take place in temporary buildings, and we see so little of the local Belgians that the Americans are ostensibly trying to save. The dialogue is risibly cliche-ridden and, although chock full of explication, utterly confusing in terms of explaining what’s going on. It all feels very dated and artless, like someone’s grandpa wrote the script 50 years ago and it was found in a drawer, then financed and made with a not inconsiderable budget for extras, vintage tanks and lots of old uniforms. The widescreen cinematography is actually rather lush, but more might have been better spent on editing and a musical score that actually syncs up with the action.

• Battle of the Bulge: Winter War is released on 21 June on digital platforms.