The Hill is a 1965 film directed by Sidney Lumet, set in a British army prison in North Africa in the Second World War. It stars Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave.
In a British Army "glasshouse" (military detention camp) in the Libyan Desert, prisoners convicted of service offences such as insubordination, being drunk whilst on duty, going AWOL or petty theft etc. are subjected to repetitive drill in the blazing desert heat.
The arrival of five new prisoners slowly leads to a clash with the camp authorities. One new NCO guard who has also just arrived employs excessive punishments, which include forcing the five newcomers to repeatedly climb a man-made hill in the centre of the camp. When one dies a power struggle erupts between brutal Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), humane Staff Sergeant Harris (Ian Bannen), Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Harry Andrews) and the camp's Medical Officer (Michael Redgrave) as they struggle to run the camp in conflicting styles.
Roberts (Sean Connery) is a former Squadron Sergeant Major from the Royal Tank Regiment, convicted of assaulting his Commanding Officer - which he explains to his fellow inmates was because he was ordered to lead his men in a senseless suicidal attack. Roberts openly scorns Williams's brutality and serves as challenge to his authority. The RSM is a career soldier who sees his vital task as breaking down failed soldiers, then building them back up again, in his words, "into men!"
Staff Sergeant Williams is new to the prison, and his ambition is matched only by his cruel treatment of the prisoners; he seeks to use their suffering as means for promotion. "And what are you supposed to be," Roberts asks him when he is accused of cowardice in battle, "a brave man in a permanent base job?" The RSM seems to agree; in another scene, he slyly mentions the fact that the Germans were bombing the UK (including the civilian prison Williams worked at) just as Williams was volunteering for prison duty in Africa.
Staff Sergeant Harris is the conscience of the prison who sympathises with the men, too closely, according to the RSM. The officers of the piece, both the CO (Norman Bird) and the Medical Officer, take their duties casually and, as Roberts points out, "everyone is doing time here, even the screws."
In the finale, the camp's Medical Officer and Staff Sergeant Harris decide to report the abuses at the camp. Sadistic Staff Sergeant Williams goes to administer one final, perhaps fatal, beating to Sergeant Major Roberts, when two prisoners intervene and appear to beat Williams to death while Roberts pleads with them to stop.
- Winner Best British Cinematography (Oswald Morris)
- Nominee Best Film (Kenneth Hyman)
- Nominee Best British Film (Kenneth Hyman)
- Nominee Best British Actor (Harry Andrews)
- Nominee Best British Screenplay (Ray Rigby)
- Nominee Best British Art Direction (Herbert Smith)
Cannes Film Festival
- Winner Best Screenplay at the 1965 Festival (Ray Rigby)
National Board of Review
- Winner Best Supporting Actor (Harry Andrews)
Writers' Guild of Great Britain
- Winner Best British Dramatic Screenplay Award (Ray Rigby)
The Hill was released to DVD by Warner Home Video on 5 June 2007 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD.
- The Hill at the Internet Movie Database
- The Hill at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Hill at the TCM Movie Database
- The Hill at AllMovie
- The Hill at the American Film Institute Catalog