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Breaker Morant (1980)

'Breaker' Morant (original title)
Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers.

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(play), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Capt. Alfred Taylor
...
...
Lt. Col. Denny (as Charles Tingwell)
Terence Donovan ...
Capt. Simon Hunt
Vincent Ball ...
Col. Ian 'Johnny' Hamilton
...
Sgt. Maj. Drummond
...
Cpl. Sharp
Russell Kiefel ...
Christiaan Botha
...
Lt. George Ramsdale Witton
Rod Mullinar ...
Maj. Charles Bolton
Alan Cassell ...
Rob Steele ...
Capt. Robertson
Chris Smith ...
Sgt. Cameron
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Storyline

During the Boer War, three Australian lieutenants are on trial for shooting Boer prisoners. Though they acted under orders, they are being used as scapegoats by the General Staff, who hopes to distance themselves from the irregular practices of the war. The trial does not progress as smoothly as expected by the General Staff, as the defence puts up a strong fight in the courtroom. Written by Kasper Sevaj <kaspsev@dorit.ihi.ku.dk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They were ordered to "take no prisoners" See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

3 July 1980 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Breaker Morant  »

Box Office

Budget:

AUD 650,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie somewhat simplifies the actual trial. In total there were six defendants. In addition to Morant, Handcock, and Witton, the accused included another lieutenant named Harry Picton, Captain Taylor, and Major Robert Lenehan, the commander of the Bushveldt Carbineers. There were also a total of six alleged incidents, totaling the deaths of at least 26 people including Boers, foreigners, and Africans, including several children. One of the charges not mentioned in the film was the assassination of an Afrikaner member of the BVC by Handcock at the orders of Captains Taylor and Robertson, allegedly for informing other Afrikaners about the execution of the six Boer prisoners. Taylor was defended by Major Thomas and acquitted on a technicality. Picton was found guilty of manslaughter and discharged from the army. See more »

Goofs

The band plays an excerpt from Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow, which premiered three years after the trial took place. See more »

Quotes

Major Thomas: Tell me, Mr. Robertson what was Lt Hancock's reason for putting Boer prisoners on open cattle cars on the trains.
Capt. Robertson: Well the Boers had been mining the lines and blowing up a lot of trains. He thought it might stop them.
Major Thomas: Well did it?
[Robertson looks at the prosecutor]
Major Thomas: Did it?
Capt. Robertson: Yes, but I don't think...
[he's interrupted]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Introducing Lewis Fitz-Gerald as George Witton See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Benchwarmers (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

The Girl I Left Behind
Written by Samuel Lover
Arranged by Jack Grimsley
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A Plot for Warriors of Any Epoch
2 March 2005 | by (Austin, Texas USA) – See all my reviews

After first encountering "Breaker" Morant during a bout of insomnia in 1984 on cable, I have repeatedly come back to this film as one of my all-time classics--covering war, politics, tactics, transitions to manhood involved in all wars--and injustice.

Although set during the Boer War, the account of three officers tried for murder during a war in which the opponents were dressed as civilians has its obvious parallels to the 21st Century. It is absolutely amazing how similar a court marshal can be out on the "velt" of South Africa, in Washington, D.C., or during a purely uniformed war in which all protagonists are easily identifiable.

Three Australian volunteers for the "Bushvelt Carbineers", recruited to fight against civilian-clad commandos (reportedly the first use of the term), find themselves charged with murder, and set as an example by the British in order to prevent Germany from entering the war on the side of the Boer (Dutch) inhabitants of South Africa. In one incredulous encounter between a British officer and Lord Kitchener, the officer spouts the British line "they lack our altruism" (referring to German interests in the gold and silver mines of South Africa), to which Lord Kitchener grudgingly responds, "Quite." A sham trial from start to finish, the Australians are defended by military attorney with experience in "land conveyancing and wills" to which one of those charged, "the latter might come in handy." The film is replete with irony and tragicomic circumstances, as this "new war for a new century" presages many of the conflicts that would come later in the 20th century, and many of the clear paradoxes and trying aspects of the war against terror--again, in which one side is not uniformed, does not conduct war according to any known "rules" of "civilized warfare" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). It has lost none of its cutting edge in the 25-odd years since its release.


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