Director Veljko Bulajic is one of Yugoslavia's best known names (The Battle of Neretva), but Rat is a mostly tiresome mixture of well-meaning, simpleminded messages, and some really pitiful humor. The fault is almost entirely with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, who made a name with Shoeshine and The Bicycle Thief and a couple dozen more Italian classics. The jokes are terrible and the cartoonish characterization almost non-existent. John and Maria make a nice couple and that's about it - they're both sweet, perfect and attractive.
Most of the satirical efforts are remindful of Chaplin's The Great Dictator, with pompous officials and soldiers making very harsh and ruthless decisions. The Captain accepts a dinner invitation one minute, and then the next, is following orders to have John shot. John's best friend is unemployed; the army gives him a job but he ends up on John's firing squad. The idea of keeping the country anonymous is okay, but the canned messages are thin, bleak, and predictable. War is Bad. Kids and marriage are Nice. War is Cruel. The comedy, which amounts mostly to army marching gags that wouldn't rate in an Abbott & Costello movie, is just terrible. Good images include a man wailing over his cow shot from above by jet aircraft, and the blasted couple stumbling through the rubble-strewn finale, like Adam and Eve in Hiroshima.
This is no cheapie; there was obviously full army cooperation from Tito's red brigades, and the scenes of jets strafing, etc, are fairly advanced. The ruins of the city look pretty much identical to today's news from Palestine. The special effects are primitive. One weird scene occurs when the President switches the television view to a camera attached to the nose of one of his attacking missiles. Crowds watch as the missile descends on hundreds of people in a town square - helpless victims just like 'us.'