After Esther and her demented ways it was off to a different world and time. This film couldn't be more different. It is an Australian drama based on the events of the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in 1942. It was released in Australia in 2005 and got considerable praise for its realism, and it didn't do too bad at the Aussie box office. For some reason I don't think this played in New Zealand which is unusal in that the bulk of Aussie films make their way across the Tasman for release here.
It is a shame as it isn't too bad a film. Within the genre of war films I split them into war and historical drama. A film like this, based on real events, for me is more historical drama than a straight war film. The Kokoda Track is an important part of Australian history. It has left its mark on the Australian people and is rightly now, within the last decade or so, being recognised. Peter Brune's book 'A Bastard of a Place' is the recognised authoritive book on the Australians in Papua. It is a very fine read and this movie does a good job at portraying this important period of Australian history.
The film suffered budgetory constraints so it concentrates on a small band of soldiers within the whole context of the campaign. I have found the film historically accurate to the events and in no way fiddlles with them to make a more sensational film. Somehow I doubt Australian audiences would have suffered such meddling.
What I have read I have found mirrored in this film. The steep terrain, the dysentry, the jungle, the climate, the insects, the mud, the 'fuzzie wuzzie angels', the Aussie mateship they are so proud of, and their unwillingness to give up is superbly portrayed. Foreign audiences may miss all this Aussieness but believe me they are like this! Like the film I reviewed recently Beneath Hill 60 this is Australia's attempt to come to terms with its recent past and show modern audiences what was done and suffered on their behalfs. This doesn't just apply to Australian audieneces but world wide ones who were involved in fighting both Japan and Germany. It is a good film in depicting what we owe these men.
Surprisingly this is a realitively short film at 90 minutes. But it still is long enough to portray the conditions and the men well. There aren't many battle scenes and the Japenese are rarely seen, so it avoids the temptation to fall into just a war film of battle scenes alone. It must be stressed the emphasise of the film is on the comradeship of these men because this was the key to their eventual success in Papua.
Like I have stated foreign audieneces will view this film much differently than Australian, and to a lesser extent Kiwi audiences. This portrays a dark fearful period of Australian history as it looked as if the Japanese, if unchecked, were going to invade Australia itself. I liked this film. It helps that I have read the Papua campaign but it also mirrors a bit of Kiwi history because NZ had troops in the Pacific and we feared Japanese invasion as much as Australia. But hey! I also know of the American involvement as I do have the official American history volume of the campaign on my bookcase! But to be blunt it was the Aussies that really thwarted the Japanese in Papua before American involvement became what it did.
For anyone who likes an historically based film then this is for you. It mirrors the Kokoda Track extremely well and is praised by veternas themselves for its realism. For anyone who just wants a straight war film then go elsewhere as it is more character based. It is a uniquely Australian film about Australian men, and mirrors them very well. Well made, this is a good film that has brought to modern Australian audiences eyes what they owe to these men. In short they are Australia's 'Few'.
I hope you take the time to see this film and realise that the war in the Pacific wasn't soley an American affair and about retribution for Pearl Harbour. Australia and New Zealand did face the real threat of invasion. My own Grandfather fought the Japenese so this film, whilst Australian, can show my own countymen's experiences in the Pacific War.
PS. I find that many reviews of this film on IMDB and Rottentomatoes have missed the mark. I stress this is an Australian film and must be viewed as such. American film critics with no appreciation and knowledge of Australian involvement and sacrifice in Papua should really get a history lesson before they judge this film. It helps to know the background as it is central to the to understanding of this film. It is about a small nation that found its identity in the crucibe of war. Remember this, at no time did America face the threat of Japenese invasion, Australia did, and in Papua they were quite literally fighting on their own doorstep. This is a key to understanding this film to Australians.