Cross Of Iron is Peckinpah's only military-action film he directed. The thing is, if you're only going to do one such genre, then here the master director got it right from start to finish. For one thing, the narrative is unlike any war-time film. Any. It also sets the tone of something that reminded me of another epic German film: Das Boat. Hence, the antihero's voice is paramount (played by James Coburn). As a sergeant, he leads and inspires his men; he has the respect of his superior officers; he kills Russians and tries to save his men. But the Germans, at this point of that awful war, are rapidly losing ground in both senses. Men and officers know this, yet to their dubious credit, the Germans truly were tenacious in the Eastern Front engagement and they gave as good as they got. Filmed in 1977, Peckinpah does indeed live up to his reputation as one of the most graphic directors in the business (read, "the more blood and guts spilled, the better"). However, this is not gratuitous wartime violence. It is the real stuff of war, and in this movie, the narrative is juxtaposed with the sobering and somber reality of brutal slaughter with a psychologically disarming motif that questions the insanity of war. Although it is customary to compare movies and narratives, mentioning this great (or lousy) film as contrast or complimentary. I think this movie stands on its own pinnacle. There is a constant transfusion of horror and humanity, and a dubious morality that shrines through the, otherwise, darkness that war ushers in with its vociferous complaint spoken through weapons and artillery. But the main focus of the movie centers on a very quizzical German reconnaissance unit (led by Coburn) and the Colonel in charge of the front lines regiment, James Mason, who begins to see a major flaw in his favorite sergeant: Coburn does not like officers in the least and only fights because he is ordered to fight. Meanwhile, Maximilan Schell, who is the reconnaissance unit's commanding officer, has his eyes on the prize: winning the prestigious Cross of Iron. And here is the flash point that sets the stage for the captain's wake-up call what it takes to win the decoration, and the envy that he feels for others, like the sergeant, who already have theirs.