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A troop of British soldiers are out in the jungle to record jungle noises and troop noises in the jungle so that the recordings can be played back by other troops to divert the enemy to their whereabouts. As they progress to what they think is closer to the base camp they find themselves farther and farther from radio range until the only channel they can get clearly is that of a Japanese broadcast. They now realize they are probably only 10 to 15 miles from a Japanese camp! The tension is added to by rowdy and openly admitted "non-hero" Private Bamforth who has nothing good to say about anyone and especially Corporal Johnstone (who holds an equal dislike for Bamforth). When a Japanese soldier is taken as their prisoner, the true colors of each man comes to the surface ... Written by
Although Kenji Takaki was the only actor to have acted in both this film and the original stage production, John Rees had been hired as an understudy for the play by its director, Lindsay Anderson. Anderson had hoped to make his debut as a director of feature films by turning his stage hit into a movie and was greatly annoyed when Leslie Norman got the job instead, frequently referring to him in subsequent interviews as a "hack". Perhaps because of this, Norman's son, the film critic and broadcaster Barry Norman, has in turn been critical of Anderson's film career, expressing his dislike of Anderson's work in print as late as 2013, nearly twenty years after Anderson's death. See more »
In the hut the soldiers' clothes become dry very quickly. Even when Laurence Harvey is wringing his shirt to get the water out, the rest of his clothes are dry. In the jungle during the rainy season, clothes would take hours if not days to dry out. See more »
A 'kitchen sink' war movie that is more about the real character of men than a comment on war not perfect but well worth a watch
A group of soldiers are in the jungle recording sounds and testing levels for sonic warfare to be tried out on the Japanese at a later date. However, when radio operator private Whitaker can only pick up Japanese signals on his radio, he surmises that they must be within 15 miles of a Japanese camp.
Tensions between the soldiers are raised as they start to protect themselves and plan to withdraw back to base plans that change when they capture a lone Japanese soldier on patrol. As they debate what to do, the true characters of the men start to come out.
I came to this thinking that this would be a low-key war movie and, in a way, I was right but it is less about war than it is about the true nature of its characters. In this way it is almost better described as social realism set in the Burmese jungle rather than anything else. The plot moves quite slowly and some modern audiences will likely struggle with the lack of fireworks in terms of acting and action for the majority of the running time but for my money I appreciated that the film took its time and developed broad characters only to then dismantle them when they are under pressure. In some regards the film isn't logical as it is more likely that the soldiers would have fled once the enemy closed in as opposed to fighting, but the play simply takes the struggle in all our souls and puts it into several different men, all making sense but not all making moral sense. It broods for a while but the point is there, building to a fine ending where the fireworks are supplied. The fact that the whole issue of treatment of POW's has come up yet again in Iraq (albeit more torture than necessity) ensures this film is still relevant but, even without the POW issue, the debate over morals and the question of 'what would you do' makes it interesting enough.
The film feels a bit stagy due to the material and limitations of the time and budget but more due to the fact that this is a play. As a play, the material serves the actors well and they rise to meet it. Their performances are roundly strong even if they occasionally overplay it as if they were projecting to the back of a theatre where they really should have used the intimacy of cinema a bit better. Laurence Harvey is powerful in the plum role of Bamforth, the man who is anti-establishment etc but turns out to be the moral core of the group, Harris has a small role but is quality throughout. Todd has the most difficult role and manages it well even if he is given fewer acting 'high points' than some of the others. Support is good and everyone has their character, including good performances from McCallum, Ronald Fraser and the less well-known Meillon and Rees.
Overall this is a dated, stagy film that may put off modern audiences unable to handle its slow pace and lack of action (for a war movie!) but this was an intelligent and interesting play and it has been put on the screen well. It is heavily cut of language and content due to the period it was made but this doesn't matter too much as it keeps the moral debate, with the men representing the various thoughts and impulses in all of us. It doesn't have a firm conclusion but to me that was part of its strength with issues of some moral complexity there are rarely definite answers or solutions.
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