I went out to see this film in Havelock North just before Christmas. I have the ticket stub but I have so many it would take me longer to find it than write a review! I wanted to review it as I think it is an important contribution to the world's understanding of the Great War.
This film got virtually no build up or commercial push here in New Zealand which is unusual considering it is an Australian film. I did not know the film had been made until it appeared in New Zealand cinemas.
What surprised me was that it was ignored and yet it is also a New Zealand story. Australia was not he only nation to have tunnellers on the Western Front throughout the Great War. New Zealand also had miners there which is a somewhat forgotten fact of our history.
I will not intrude on the Ausralian nature of this film. It is an Australian story of Australian men that served their country and yet have been somewhat forgotten since. The miners who enlisted to dig tunnels on the Western Front were never formally recognised as regular soldiers. This explains how they have fallen through the cracks of history. The New Zealand miners involved in the same activities suffered the same fate. It is only recently that their contribution to their respective country's military history has come to light and public acknowledgment.
I think this is one of the better war films made. War films, until recently, suffered the fate of just being made to fill the genre and more often that not were historically inaccurate. Beneath Hill 60 does not suffer this fate. It is an unglamourous look at what these men done in some appalling conditions. It also shows how they not only battled mud, water, collapses, and German counter-tunnellers, but the also the British. Anyone who is from the 'Colonies' will understand the attitude of the British officers involved towards the tunnellers. It was a constant problem for both Australia and New Zealand soldiers throughout the war.
The part I specifically liked about this film was the sets. The trenches are realistic, and the battle scenes are taut and portray the fear of the men superbly. It did not skimp on any detail to replicate an aunthentic Great War trench system and battlefield. It really is one of the most outstanding war films I have seen for realism. It is this realism that sets this film apart from so many war films made before it.
It is a film that accompanies Gallipoli very well even though they were made almost thirty years apart. Gallipoli has seared its name on to the histories of Australia and New Zealand and the fact their soldiers were sent to the Western Front after that campaign is often forgotten. This film, whilst only a microism of the Australian war effort on that front, is an important step in filling Australia's (and New Zealand's) understanding of their involvement in that war.
I highly recommend this film to everyone. It is a war film but not in the traditional manner. The sets are superb and worth seeing to get even a remote feel for what it was like to serve in the trenches of World War One.