To study a film, you have to study both its content (its scenario or story-board, its story theme and the stereotypes on which it relies, its strategy of story-telling, its strategy for characterization) and its technical form, its cinematography.To study the content of a film
The content of war films is a representation of war events, participants, and motivations. That representation is built up as a story to be told. That story has its conventional elements, so that it can be comprehensible to its audience, and its innovative ones, which the audience has to be "taught" to understand. The story, or scenario, is often worked up by the writer and director into a treatment and/or a storyboard, which then gets worked into a script and a shooting script (with shot instructions). Each story has conventional elements that make it "well-told" for its audience -- certain "obligatory scenes." If a scenario has the hero die, then it is almost obligatory for the film to show that death. Similarly, there are expectations about what heroes and villains, lovers and warriors, look like, act, speak, and react that are obligatory -- these are expectations that the audience will bring to the film. Many times, these expectations, these stereotypes, need to be "rewritten" by the film, and so they need to be quoted in order to be refuted in the course of the film.
So it is important to track:
Taken together, these choices will indicate who the audience is: a film has to operate from the familiar into its own space, its own story. In cases where the film is a landmark, it also often creates its own story grammar, a new way of telling stories that can be used by further filmmakers.
To make a case about the message of a film, it is useful to track sets of these elements from the opening sequences, a turning point or climax sequence, and the final sequences (denouement or resolution sequence).To study the cinematography of a film
The message of the film depends not only on what is represented, but also on how it is represented. There is a set of obligatory shots and sequences, traditions of shooting, lighting, sound effects, and framing, and genre conventions (what differentiates a "special effects" film from other adventure films, for example). That is, there is a set of technical grammars that convey meaning just as surely as the content does, and that draw in film history in their own ways.
Pay attention to: