In the fog of war, there's often a thin line between success and failure. Gods and Monsters profiles a few occasions throughout the history of warfare when hugely misguided tactics led to punishing defeat.
These skirmishes were not defined by the winds of cruel fate, but by the gross incompetence of military leaders whose arrogance got the better of them. In these instances, many soldiers paid the ultimate price for the unchecked egos of their superiors.
After leading a defining military victory in Egypt as commander of the Eighth Army, British Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery was heralded as the savior of the Second World War. Bolstered by the adoration of government leaders and a fawning public, he was placed in charge of the D-Day landings for both British and American forces. His early successes were the result of great caution and careful calculation, but those qualities eventually fell by the wayside when President Eisenhower insisted on dictating military strategy himself. Feeling his authority threatened, Montgomery launched a massive and hastily planned air attack behind enemy lines in Germany. Hundreds of allied troops were killed before the landing even took place.
Tens of thousands of men shared a similar fate under the leadership of Major General Charles V.F. Townshend. Desperate to regain the fame that met him early in his military career, he led increasingly aggressive and foolish campaigns across Mesopotamia in 1915. This bloated sense of vanity ultimately sealed the fate of his command.
General Douglas MacArthur is perhaps the most celebrated of all American military commanders. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, MacArthur's dominance was unquestionable and he operated as though he was beyond reproach. At the age of 70, he led a campaign into North Korea, bickered over strategy with President Truman, and stubbornly dismissed the formidable intervention of the Chinese. His actions would place the United States on the brink of World War III.
The brave men and women of our fighting forces deserve our admiration. Gods and Monsters values them as well. The film understands that the same values that comprise a successful military leader - particularly the possession of aggressive ambition and supreme confidence - can also result in catastrophic consequences for those who serve under them.