Nazis return as Hollywood turns to Second World War films

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Decades after the success of The Dam Busters and The Colditz Story, a spate of new films about the Nazis are capturing the attention of viewers just as it looked like the genre may die out.

Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise as a German officer who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, has made more than $60 million in two weeks in the United States, while Kate Winslet's performance as an SS guard in The Reader has made the film an Oscar favourite.

The lesser-known war film Defiance has also enjoyed unexpected Box Office success in the US, and Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, about Jewish-American resistance to the Nazis in occupied France is due for release later this year.

Critics and film experts say that the popularity of these war epics stems in part from the public's wish to seek escape in films about topics that are now safely in the past, particularly a conflict in which the "villains" were obvious and the reasons for fighting seemed just.

Tellingly, Second World War films are proving more appealing to audiences than recent films about the Iraq war, such as In the Valley of Elah and Redacted.

Michael Apted, who made the 2001 film Enigma about the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, said that British and Americans viewers enjoyed Second World War films because they allowed them to feel proud and nostalgic about their country's military achievements.

"Most wars are a complete muddle, but this seems to have been a clear war," he told The Independent.

The heroism and activism of the soldiers and civilians who helped toppled the Nazis also contrasts sharply with the apparent failure powerlessness of governments to master the current financial crisis, critics say...

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