"That night, I sat in the jungles of Guadalcanal, waiting to be killed, sopping wet. Then I had my blinding revelation: I discovered I was a coward. That’s my new religion. I’m a coward. I’m a big believer in it. Cowardice will save the world."
--Charlie Madison, from "The Americanization of Emily" (1964)
Hailed as a signature anti-war movie, "Emily" is certainly the smartest, thanks to visionary scribe Paddy Chayefsky ("The Hospital," "Network"), who gets away with the kind of expository writing that stops most other screenplays in their tracks. He's the smartest guy in the room, and his scripts don't hide the fact. Still, he makes it work.
It helps when you have James Garner in the lead, taking the edge off of Chayefsky's brilliant venom. He may lack Jack Lemmon's resume, but Garner matches his natural ease. He's served well by a teriffic supporting cast, including Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas and James Coburn.
"Emily" is entertaining and instructive -- how many movies can you say that about these days? Heroism, romance, primal doubts, politics ... it's all here.
"I'm not interested in the truth, just the momentary fact of things."