Considering how many great movies he directed, Fred Zinnemann is seriously underappreciated. He won best director for High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and A Man for All Seasons—but you don't hear him mentioned in the same breath as other luminaries like Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stephen Spielberg. It's hard to understand why.
Zinnemann apparently liked to make movies about lone individuals taking stands. Prewitt clearly does this in From Here to Eternity, standing up to "The Treatment" when Captain Holmes tries to force him into the boxing tournament. It's pretty similar to High Noon, in which Gary Cooper's small-town sheriff has to defend his town from bad guys—even though the townspeople are total wusses and won't lift a finger to help him.
Also, Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons tackles the true story of Sir Thomas More, who refused to support King Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church. More was executed for high treason.
Balancing Big Stuff and Small Stuff
In directing this movie, Zinnemann balances the personal, human drama with a greater view of history. We get to see a detailed, carefully crafted depiction of the American soldiers' lives in Hawaii: their love affairs, their bar fights, their musical pastimes, and their small-scale struggles.
But at the end of the movie, we get to see these personal problems weighed against a massive, international crisis—the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, which prompted America's entry into World War II. Zinnemann actually used footage that was filmed by the famous director John Ford during World War II—parts of it are really from the field of fight, but the footage mostly consists of extremely realistic reconstructions created by Ford.
So a good portion of Zinnemann's skill lies in showing these small-scale moments—like the famous kiss-on-the-beach between Warden and Mrs. Holmes—and the larger-scale moments, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, and putting them together. It gives the movie a feel that's both epic and human… and pretty sexy, in a sand-in-the-swimsuit kind of way.