This story is set during World War II in post D-Day France. The plot is a simple one, which for the director Brian G Hutton, who also directed "Where Eagles Dare", guarantees the minimum of complexity and the maximum of effect. Kelly (Clint Eastwood) captures a German colonel (David Hurst), who unintentionally tells him where the Germans are hiding $16,000,000 worth of gold bars deep behind enemy lines, guarded by three Tiger Tanks and a company of S.S guards.
Recognising he is unable to take on the Nazi war-machine single-handed, he realises he's compelled to recruit some fellow conspirators, and so he talks to Master Sergeant Big Joe (Telly Savalas), the top sceptical sergeant who initially condemns the plan, but changes his mind when it becomes clear that he cannot prevent his men from going on this private mission. Murphy also seeks help from Staff Sergeant "Crapgame" (Don Rickles), the quarter master hustler who can without difficulty lay his hands on any piece of equipment or weapon; and Sergeant Oddball (Donald Sutherland), the wacky leader of a Sherman-tank squad, whose bizarre life style consists of getting high on drugs, charming women and consuming booze and to say nothing in meditating to wacky music. Oddball, in fact, virtually steals the film in his character role of a crazy woozy tank commander.
If Oddball's behaviour is not enough then he also has tagging along with him,a crew of other outrageous wacky misfits. Platoon Sgt Bellamy of the 42nd Engineers (Len Lesser) is a construction officer who gets conned into going along to build a bridge for the guys, and ends up getting really screwed over by Kelly's outfit. Once the news of the gold is general knowledge, all of the diehards become less interested in winning the war, but rather pursue the idea of relieving the German army of the gold bullion concealed inside a closed French Bank. The deal for all the crew is to divide equal shares with all those participating in the operation.
General Colt (Carroll O'Connor) plays the self esteemed General who sees the advanced movement as nothing more than a group of committed loyal soldiers taking the war by the scruff of the neck and penetrating behind enemy lines.
The movie also features some incredible action scenes. The minefield fiasco is suspenseful and nail biting, and ultimately becomes packed with loads of gunfire and explosions. The final battle, in which the dozen or so heroes manage to eliminate a garrison of Germans in a small French village, is skilfully filmed, with some brilliant cinematography and oodles of first-class special effects. Some major aspects of this sequence were copied in "Saving Private Ryan" highlighting Tiger tanks in the street, a sniper in a bell tower, machine gun fire coming from demolished buildings, the entire general look of these sequences was to some extent copied into "Saving Private Ryan", but then they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery?
The storyline is credible since it stretches, but never pushes over the line of plausibility. The Lalo Schiffrin score is light-hearted fun, and the Mike Curb Congregation's "Burning Bridges" theme is a good choice, fitting perfectly with the theme of the movie.
Kelly's Heroes is a witty, light-hearted WWII adventure, with no hidden messages to convey which many other war films tended to elaborate on. This movie is a timeless classic full of entertainment and originality.