MANOEUVRE follows a U.S. infantry tank company through NATO’s annual fall manoeuvres in Western Europe. One purpose of these war games is to test how quickly and effectively U.S. reinforcements can come to the aid of NATO forces stationed in Europe. The various stages of the training exercise, including defensive and offensive tactics, and hypothetical wins and losses are seen from the point of view of a company fighting a simulated, conventional, non-nuclear ground and air war.
The viewer suddenly realizes that this exercise really acted out a war like the last one and if there ever should be a World War, it would be much different. Frederick Wiseman hasn’t argued that conclusion, but his remarkable film makes it hard to miss.
–John W. Donahue, S.J., America
In Manoeuvre there is no war but there is the illusion of war, the memory of World Wars past, and the soldiers’ sure belief in war to come…His style is so fair that it took the Pentagon just two days to approve his making the film. The generals knew Wiseman would leave the audience to judge their private world, their ethos, even in the final moment.
–Bill Henry, The Boston Globe
…the only thing lacking in MANOEUVRE is the smell of commingled sweat and exhaust.
Wiseman Retrospective at Film Forum Repertory