War Movie Technical Codes and Narrative Conventions
- Use of wide shots and (especially in war movies dealing with air combat or large scale battles) birds eye view angles. The wide shots are used to show the “cavalry” or team of good guys marching towards the camera in a militaristic fashion. The bird’s eye view surveys the battle field below and follows bombs dropped by air planes and bombers, showing the complete devastation of the cities and towns attacked.
- In almost every war movie during the battle scene, the hero of the movie has a bomb land near him or he becomes very focused. During this time, all diegetic and non-diegetic sound completely ceases and the hero can hear only the beating of his own heart.
- During this time, another convention of war movies occurs. Time slows almost to a standstill, allowing the hero to look around and survey his immediate surroundings or the entire battle field with the camera following in with either an over the shoulder shot (ots) or first-person angle.
- The special weapon. Each soldier on the good guy’s team is especially proficient in one specific type of weapon that the audience can identify him with. There are many different types of weapons soldiers can specialize in, such as; a sniper rifle, heavy machine gun, explosives, rocket launcher, dual or single pistols, shotgun, flamethrower, light machine gun or even an archaic type weapon like a sword.
- The ethnic guy. Whether they are friend or foe, in a war movie there is a specific person the audience will be able to identify because of his ethnicity. The token black guy, the Hispanic Christian or the Italian guy are a few examples of ethnic character stereotypes used in war movies.
- The cavalry comes over the hill. A convention of war movies is that the good guys face insurmountable odds but they will still fight to the death to protect their homes and will do so even against an incredulously big enemy force, it seems our heroes will die. When suddenly, allied reinforcements arrive and pull the heroes out of hell and drive back and defeat the enemy. However, the cavalry may not always be a mounted one, there are various forms of reinforcements: a fresh regiment, a tank unit, air support, a truck load of soldiers, a second special unit or a boat load of new weapons.