Based on the pivotal action which precipitated the end of the Second World War in Europe, but otherwise fictionalized, Battle of the Bulge is a rousing, commercial battlefield action-drama of the emotions and activities of US and German forces.
Script pits hard-charging German tank commander Robert Shaw against a US military hierarchy topped by Robert Ryan, intelligence chief Dana Andrews, and latter’s assistant (Henry Fonda) who is initially unpopular with the higher brass because he insists that the Germans are building towards a winter offensive.
Shaw is outstanding in a multifaceted role which demands he be a true war-lover, coolly rational under battle pressure and somewhat contemptuous of rear echelon chief Werner Peters.
On the US side script is flawed in the introduction of stock military types. Ken Annakin’s direction and the adroit spacing of skirmishes minimize the script softness, exemplified by Fonda’s character, whose solo sleuthing and tactical analysis strains credulity. Withal, Fonda is excellent.