Wolves of War has a very familiar feel to it, right from the start. A small group of Allied fighters have to go deep inside enemy territory to stop Hitler from pulling out a last-moment victory. In this case, that means going into Germany itself and retrieving an American scientist who has developed an atomic bomb. Why is an American nuclear scientist in Germany in 1945? We’ll get to that in a minute.
The film opens in 1939 as widower Jack Wallace (Ed Westwick, Flight from Hell, Children of Men) reads a bedtime story to his young daughter and tells her he’ll always come home, no matter what. Six years later he’s in a plane somewhere over Germany when they run into anti-aircraft fire and he and the others, who’ve been told it’s a simple reconnaissance mission, have to jump for it.
Captain Norwood (Matt Willis, Madness in the Method, Allies) finally tells Wallace and Deegan (Sam Gittins, Await Further Instructions, Time Loop) that their mission is to extract Professor Hopper (Rupert Graves. V for Vendetta, Silencio), his research and his daughter Hannah (Anastasia Martin, In From the Cold, Little Women: The Musical). Professor Connor (Jackson Bews, Social Suicide, Robocroc) is along to help sort out the paperwork if needed.
Writer Ben Mole (Behind the Line: Escape to Dunkirk, Code of Silence) and director Giles Alderson (Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot, The Dare) aren’t taking any chances with Wolves of War’s storyline. They land in the middle of territory patrolled by an SS unit that shouldn’t be there, their radio doesn’t work, most of the squad didn’t survive. We’ve seen it all before.
Unfortunately, having so many of the film’s plot points come out of the Filmmaking 101 textbook didn’t give them enough time to figure out a good reason why Hopper didn’t see what was going on and get out of Germany before it was too late. He’s smart enough to develop his own nuke but couldn’t tell that Hitler was bad news?
With so much of Wolves of War being familiar there really isn’t much that could have been done to make it stand out. The obviously tight budget wasn’t going to allow for any massive battle scenes. And despite the villains being uber fanatical SS troops led by Von Sachs (Max Themak, Before We Grow Old, Jackpot) who we first see shooting civilians, the desire to get a wide audience ruled out turning it into the kind of gritty, violent war films we used to see.
Oddly, the one thing about Wolves of War that is out of line with most generic war action films would have fit nicely into a more serious drama on the subject. Wallace feels conflicted about the number of lives he’s taken and frequently sees his daughter in the place of the dead. In a film about the emotional toll war takes, PTSD, etc that would be a perfect element. In a film about heroic Allied soldiers and pure evil SS forces, it feels too serious and too heavy.
There is a fair amount of action in Wolves of War, certainly more than in other recent low-budget war films like Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island or Spitfire Over Berlin. It’s not staged in a particularly intense or exciting manner, but it’s acceptable if you keep your expectations low.
And that’s actually a pretty good summation of Wolves of War in general. There’s nothing special about it and no real reason to go out of your way to see it. But if you’re craving a war film and you keep your expectations low, say about on the level of The Coyotes of War, this might be acceptable.