Picks and Pans Review: Ike: Countdown to D-Day

updated 06/07/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/07/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A&E (Mon., May 31, 8 p.m. ET)

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Back in the '80s, when he was modeling Hawaiian shirts on Magnum, P.I., who could have pictured Tom Selleck as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower planning the Normandy invasion? Yet here he is in this solid World War II drama, giving a surprisingly effective performance.

The actor is 59 now, more than five years older than the Allies' Supreme Commander was in those fateful days of 1944. But let's face it: Even minus his usual mustache and full head of hair, Tom still has it over Ike in the looks department. Fortunately, Selleck isn't going for a physical impersonation. What writer-executive producer Lionel Chetwynd and director Robert Harmon clearly wanted from their star was that he capture the essence of Eisenhower: integrity; determination; lack of pretense; diplomacy with a dash of temper; a focus on the big picture combined with a concern for the individual soldier. Selleck projects these qualities well, and his grin has the full Ike wattage.

Timothy Bottoms, who was locked into imitating George W. Bush in Chetwynd's D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis, is more convincing here as Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's self-effacing chief of staff. Also serving capably are James Remar as a calmly can-do Gen. Omar Bradley, Bruce Phillips as Great Britain's temperamental Gen. Bernard Montgomery and Gerald McRaney (whose military background includes Major Dad) as a blustering, disingenuous Gen. George Patton.

Like D.C. 9/11, this is basically a guys-having-meetings movie, and the historical characters are prone to portentous dialogue. But the film holds us, primarily because—as folks said in the 1952 presidential campaign—We Like Ike.

DRAMA

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