Policemen Ali Sokhela and Brian Epkeen investigate the brutal murder of a young white woman, apparently provoked by the availability of a new illegal drug and somehow connected to the disappearance of black street children.
Two Lieutenants, Chard of Engineers and Bromhead find that their 140 man contingent in Natal has been isolated by the destruction of the main British Army column and that 4,000 Zulu warriors will descend on them in hours. Each has a different military background in tactics and they are immediatly in conflict on how to prepare for the attack. Nearly a third of the men are in the infirmary, as the welsh company tries to somehow survive with no help in sight. Based on a true story.
Colour Sergeant Bourne, shown as a much older man in the film, was actually only 24 years old during the defense of Rorke's Drift and was the last defender of the post to die - as an honorary Lieutenant Colonel on VE Day, 8th May 1945, at the age of 91. See more »
Camera shadow on the shield as the Zulu sneak up for the first engagement. See more »
Superlative acting, cinematography & direction: what impact!
I cannot find words to fully express how perfectly formed this film is, though I will- of course- make a good stab at it!
I've seen Zulu so many times since it was first released that I have lost count. In the days when you could sit in the cinema and watch a film come round for a second (or even a third) time, I always did this with Zulu. I bought the soundtrack when it came out (on vinyl, of course).
From Stanley Baker & Michael Caine on through the cast list the acting is, quite simply, superb. This is an ensemble piece, and the ensemble gives its all! Photographically, it is beautifully conceived and executed. There is a tendency in 'war' movies to find a couple of favourite types of shot, and then endlessly repeat them, rather like a budgerigar that has learnt how to make his bell ring: no danger of that here; a whole lexicon of camera movements & angles is deployed with consummate skill so that you cannot watch this film without being fully engaged with it.
But, to cut to the chase, what is so striking is that here is a movie that could so easily have been yet another 'duffing up the natives' actioner, and instead becomes a vehicle for all sorts of interesting questions. Questions such as 'what is it to be a man?', and 'what is courage?' are posed and turned into interesting questions with complex and surprising answers.
The way that Zulu culture/social psychology is compared with that of the British soldiers is also deft and insightful. The cry of the drunken pastor- "you're all going to die"- echoes through the rest of the film, as we see how the protagonists face death.
Any review of this would be incomplete without mention of the music, which is so well-suited to the action. It forms a restless, swirling, and sometimes majestic backdrop to what is happening on-screen.
The voice-overs which 'bookend' the film also underline that which is, in any case, clear from the narrative: this film is no apologia for imperialism. Neither does it represent battle as other than bloody and painful murder. What is, perhaps, the most remarkable feature of the film is the way in which it damns war while neither grossing out nor alienating its audience. It is, on the contrary, an enthralling and passionate entertainment.
One memorable visual moment occurs toward the end, when the Zulus appear simultaneously on the skyline all round Rorke's Drift. Compare this with the appearance of the tanks on the skyline in 'The Battle of the Bulge'...
P.S., beware (as you always should) TV showings or videos that are 'scanned' rather than in the original letterbox format: cinematography this good does not deserve to be butchered!
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