Rhineland (2007)




Director:     Chris Grega. 

Starring:      Derek Simmons (Calvin Mayer),  Paul Wendell (Sgt. Mike Bowen),  Travis Estes (Lt. Frank Westman),  Brock Roberts (David Sorrenson),  Robert Nolan Clark (Lindry),  Christopher Macke (Pastowski),  James Gianoulakis (Candechi),  Mike Feraro (Kildare),  Elliot Book  (Brown),  Daniel Probst (Capt. Dale Wittenour),  Andy Byrd (Jack Parks, Medic),  Tyler Shaw (Sgt. George Owens),  Scott D. Muck (2nd Lt. Phil McKinley),  Eric Stanze (Hawkins),  Joe Hammerstone (Cpl. Remy Howard).

March, 1945 "The last great killing ground in the west"



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"Following the failure of the last big offensive in Western Europe, the German army found itself in a desperate holding action to keep the allies at bay.  Between the Rhine River and the borders of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg was the Rhineland.  This area was ordered by Hitler to be held at all costs, so the bloody and battered Wehrmacht grimly dug in.  In February, 1945, the invading allied armies were poised to take possession of the Rhineland in a final assault that would eventually push the German army back into their homeland towards complete destruction."

An American truck drives down a road with five replacement troops in the back.  They pass by German prisoners of war under guard by the Americans.  Suddenly the truck stops and the guys are told to get off the truck.  The fellows think they are being dropped off in the wrong place and start to protest.  Meyer is the most vocal and a sergeant asks him his name, which is Mayer.  The soldier tells him:  "It's going to get a hell of a lot worse,s Mayer."

The guys wonder if they are going to be thrown onto the line and have to fight it out with the Germans, but these guys are completely in the dark. They grumble about the army just dropping them off and not telling them where they are supposed to go.  They shut up fast, however, when they see the covered bodies of several dead men.  The sarge comes up and the guys stay quiet.  He says the guys have been trained in anti-tank.  Affirmative.  Sarge then breaks the bad news to them.  Since the unit only has two anti-tank weapons of the sort the men were trained on, they have just volunteered for mine duty.  The guys start complaining again and sarge says that they will be the replacements for the dead men around them.  He says he's Sgt. Bowen and the men are to follow him.  Mayer says "no" to the sarge.  Sarge walks up to the man and gets in his face.  He then tells the man to repeat what he just said.  The guy won't repeat it.  Bowen tells the guys that they don't know what's going on and they are not going to stay alive very long if they question his authority.  

The guys start grumbling again and sarge tells themt that they better get used to the fact that they are in a mine platoon.  They are not going to be anti-tank men.  A soldier named Sorrenson just back from the hospital greets sarge and asks him where the squad is?  Everyone except Lt. Westman is dead.  The lieutenant comes over and is told they have only been given five new guys.  Candechi is made the radio man.  The army is figuring on another push by the Germans and the new squad has to plant mines to slow the Germans down.  Each man will carry two mines.

As the soldiers walk through a field, the veteran soldier discovers that the place is a mine field.  They have to double-back. 

The squad starts planting mines.  All of a sudden, a group of German soldiers come running past them.  One American soldier prepares to fire at the Germans, but the lieutenant tells him to just let the enemy be, that neither side wants a fire fight.  One German has stopped to see what the Americans are going to do, but since the men don't make any threatening moves, the German just continues on. 

At night the men gets spooked a bit and they fire into the dark.  The next day they discover that they have killed a replacement.  The lieutenant says the man forgot the password and tells Mayer and Sorrenson to take the body back to their position. 

The lieutenant tells the guys that they have been ordered back.   A Company got the hell kicked out of it last night and they are going to replace one of their platoons.  The sarge figures that the guys just mined the road for nothing.  The men start moving out.  Mayer asks the lieutenant shouldn't they bury their man?  The lieutenant says to him:  "There's going to be a lot of things you should have done; a thousand things you wish you would have done; a million things you wish you could have done."  Mayer grabs the man's dog tags and then leaves.  The Germans are not far from him by now. 

Sorrenson tells the lieutenant that he made a wrong turn somewhere.  So the lieutenant gets out his map to figure out how to get back on the right path.  The men have to double-back.  On the way back, they run into some Germans and a fire fight breaks out.  The lieutenant decides to leave the area rather than continue the fight.  The men work their way over to A Company.  Mayer complains to the sarge again that this ain't right.  The sarge tells Mayer that he's a coward if he's anything. 

The guys are waiting for the lieutenant to come get them, when an officer comes up and tells the men to come with him.  They have to clear a road for C company.  Sarge protests, but the officer insists, so the unit tags along with the officer.  Meanwhile, the Lt. Westman is told that they have to clear out a group of SS soldiers on top of a prominent hill. 

So the mine platoon has to start poking around for enemy mines.  The lieutenant goes up to the crest of the hill and with his binoculars starts to look for Germans.  Sarge tells the lieutenant that he can't stand there like that and "boom" the lieutenant goes down when he is hit by the shrapnel from a mortar shell.  More shells start falling onto the road.  When the firing stops, two replacements are dead.  Sarge tells his men to get the dead men's dog tags and go. 

Sarge goes back to headquarters and learns they are going out on another push to take "that hill".  When he sees his own lieutenant he explains that two of their men, Kildare and Brown, were killed.  The lieutenant is a bit upset because they are back down to just six men again, including him.  Sarge adds that he doesn't know about Mayer because the fellow is a coward.

The squad is out checking for mines.  The lieutenant says there are no mines here and they leave.  They go back to the line and are told that third platoon and first platoon are heading up the side of the hill.  The mine platoon will stay behind as a reserve. 

The Germans on the hill see the Americans coming and open fire on them.  A S.S. sniper kills one of the lieutenants.  The slope of the hill is almost completely clear of trees and brush and the men advancing up the hill are very vulnerable to enemy fire.  The Germans are well entrenched and they have a machine gun that is used to kill a lot of Americans.  Lt. Westman is now ordered to attack up the left flank.  His unit moves out, except for Mayer.  Sarge has to yell at him to move it.  Mayer gets yelled at again for not firing his weapon at the enemy. 

The unit reaches the shallow trench and they kill a few Germans to take it.  Now they move inside the trench.  Then the American soldiers are all over the area and some of the Germans start running for their lives.  Westman and his boys chase after the retreating Germans and kill quite a few of them, before they fade away into the forest.  Westman loses another man. 

Now the mine squad gets the job of going out on a prisoner "snatch".  Again Westman protests and again his commanding officer asks him if there is a problem?  Westman says no. 

The mine squad discovers an enemy  two-man outpost.  Westman and Sorrensen head forward on the left flank.  They take the two Germans prisoners without firing a shot.  Moving the prisoners out, one of the squad steps on a mine and is badly hurt.  They carry the man to a dispensary, but the man is too badly wounded to be saved. 

Sgt. Bowen has been acting strangely and his men now fear that the guy has lost it.  The guys dig fox holes.  Westman comes over to Bowen and tells him that they were so good that they have been chosen to set up an outpost.  Sarge says: "Of course."  Now Westman asks Bowen if he's alright?  Bowen insists that he is.  The bit of good news is that tonight they get to sleep in a farmhouse behind the lines.  At the farmhouse sarge seems very discouraged saying that they are all dead men.  Mayer says that's not true. 

The next day, the squad crosses a field and heads up a railway embankment.  Coming toward them is an armored personnel carrier and a jeep along with soldiers on foot.  The lieutenant tries to call in artillery via the radio, but can't reach them.  They are going to have to go back and warn the other Americans.  The American squad crosses over the crest of the hill with the Germans coming along not far behind them.  The guys dropped a radio and one of the German soldiers finds it and carries it with him.

The squad hides in a low spot that can't be seen from the main path.  They let the German pass by them.  Then they get back on the path.  The German must have doubled-back because they catch the Americans by surprise.  The Americans have to fall back.  Bowen catches a few Germans and they get down on their knees and surrender.  Bowen shoots the three on their knees, before he is grabbed by another American soldier to stop him.  They take one soldier as a prisoner.  They run again.  The lieutenant stops, wondering which way to go.  Bowen wants to kill the prisoner, but Westman says no.  The Germans start catching up with them again.  The Americans start running again.  Bowen is hit back to front on his right side. 

The Americans stop to take a break and Bowen dies.  The lieutenant is very upset over the death of his friend and when the prisoner says something, the lieutenant threatens to shoot the prisoner dead.  One of the squad points his rifle at the lieutenant and says he can't shoot the prisoner.  It's just not right.  The lieutenant screams up to the heavens and then cries.  The Germans catch up to them and the guy who stopped the lieutenant is shot in the back.  The prisoner tries to run away, but Mayer shoots him in the back.  Now there are only three Yanks left. They get out of there and hide behind some bushes and logs.  The Germans walk right past them. 

Westman is now like a zombie.  Mayer has to take over.  He studies the map and leads the way back.  They come across a dead American soldier and this time Mayer buries the corpse.

The three men reach a road.  Along comes a medic in a jeep and he gives the men a ride back to camp. 

Mayer asks what happened to Westman and he is told he was sent to battalion headquarters to rest.  He will be out of the fighting, at least for now.  Mayer now learns that he is the new sergeant of the mine platoon.  He tells the officer that he is not qualified, but the officer doesn't care, since Mayer is the only man he has to take the job. 

The new replacements come in.  Five of them, just like last time.  Mayer walks over to them and says like Bowen:  "All right, listen up!   I'm Sgt. Mayer."


Pretty good movie.  It kept my interest.  Five replacements with anti-tank training are put into a mine platoon.  Then they are used for many different types of jobs.  They finally end up on the front line in the thick of the action.  One by one the guys are whittled away.  Sgt. Bowen thinks Pvt. Mayer is nothing but a coward and he keeps riding him about it.  One thing for certain, Mayer was the biggest complainer of all the soldiers.  And yet with some experience he starts to rise to the occasion, gradually becoming more and more confident.  Paul Wendell (as Sgt. Mike Bowen) was especially good in the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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