Cross of Iron more than anything else affirms director Sam Peckinpah’s prowess as an action filmmaker of graphic mayhem.
Told from the German viewpoint as the Wehrmacht’s cream were being clobbered on the Russian front circa 1943, the production [from the book by Willi Heinrich] is well but conventionally cast, technically impressive, but ultimately violence-fixated.
The film efficiently employs James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason and David Warner as frontline Germans. Coburn plays a platoon sergeant of style, ability and soul, contemptuous of the military and sick of the war.
Cross of Iron’s overwhelming image is not disillusion, even less war’s absurdity, but the war itself.