The Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once noted that “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” This statement, popularly abbreviated to the term “the fog of war,” is illustrated by the low budget war drama The Final Sacrifice, which upends simplistic notions of “good guys” and “bad guys.”
In early 1945, the German defensive line in north Italy known as the Gothic Line is about to come under attack by American troops. German soldiers, exhausted and low on supplies, have nothing to do but wait. They feel more friction than comradeship with Italian soldiers, who themselves are under attack from resistance fighters with communist ties. Throw in a local gangster who is making a deal for black market wine with an American soldier, and you have a morally muddy mix in which every participant just longs for the fight to end.
At its best, The Final Sacrifice is reminiscent of the war dramas of Sam Fuller, who was always more interested in individual soldiers than the causes for which they fought. The cast is filled with every day faces, and if it weren’t for the fact that speak in their own languages (with subtitles), it might often be impossible to figure out which side any given solder is on,
It works better in parts than it does as a whole, though it could be argued that the overall confusion is part of director Ari Taub’s plan. Contributing to that in the worst way is the film’s greatest liability, a clichéd musical score that is variously overwrought or utterly inappropriate, as if Taub lacks faith in what he has put on screen to see.
If you are a fan of war movies who finds this familiar, you may well have seen it before: the footage was shot in the early 2000s, and Taub has been tinkering with it ever since, releasing it in various edits over the years as Letters from the Dead (2003), The Fallen (2004), The Gothic Line (also 2004), and Last Letters from Monte Rosa (2010). An earlier version under the title The Final Sacrifice was released in 2016. How this new “director’s cut” varies from the previous versions is beyond the scope of this review.