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Once again, I've had the pleasure of showing this film to one of my College literature classes; we're studying the World War One poets of England, and this film shows my students in vivid detail what made this war so different from anything that had come before it. The world lost its innocence with "The Great War," and we are still reeling from the consequences a century later. Peter Weir's magnificent film follows the story of two best "mates" from the Australian outback and their sudden thrust into the realities of a new world order. Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, and a fine cast create the sense of brotherhood and horror that makes this film so profoundly moving. The last 20 minutes spares the audience no detail, and while more recent films like "Black Hawk Down" and "Saving Private Ryan" are perhaps more graphic, "Gallipoli" immerses us in the human loss more fully. In "Gallipoli" we get to know these friends in intimate detail, making the losses they suffer in the end truly gut wrenching. Five stars out of five stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Gallipoli' is the story of two young sprinters who join the war effort in
Turkey during World War I. There have been countless war films in cinema
history covering the different wars, the horrors of war, etc. What is
unique about this story is its probing of two young friends and their
journey into the military effort--unlike other war films, which deal
directly with the war, 90% of this film follows the journey of these two
young men before they transfer over to the war. The special quality of this
is that the viewer gets to know these two protagonists very well and their
humble lives in Australia--which makes the tragic ending all the more
devastating. The last 20 or 30 minutes of the film is spent at the
Gallipoli peninsula, inside the war trenches. The generals vainly send men
running toward the enemy and they are swiftly slaughtered. These scenes
demonstrate the horrible truth of war, that healthy young men with lives
ahead of them are destroyed forever in a single, pointless
The final minute of the film is truly heartbreaking, as a tragedy occurs between the two young friends. The very last shot of the film is stunning, as a horrible image is frozen on screen. Director Weir could have fallen into the sentimentality trap, but he was smart: the tragedy occurs, and the moment it does, the movie ends RIGHT THERE, leaving you with a haunting final image.
A landmark war film, highly recommended.
I taught HS history and used very few commercial movies in teaching...the exceptions included GALLIPOLI and PATHS OF GLORY and the newer remake of ALL QUIET. I've never watched a film that builds plot, mood and theme any better than Gallipoli. While there are many light-hearted and humorous forays which add to character development, the ongoing drum-beat of the film is war, war, war--attack, attack, attack. I can't imagine any better musical score or musical editing:the juxtaposition of elegant Strauss waltzes the night before debarkation with the funereal Adagio as the troops cross the water is genius. I'm surprised that we haven't seen more of Marc Lee-the idealistic Archie. He does a wonderful job along with a VERY young Mel Gibson. When I showed the movie to my classes I was careful to watch THE STUDENTS as the final scenes arrived rather than the film. Now THAT was telling! I absolutely commend this film to all! (ADDED)BTW...Brits---try not to take the criticism of the military operation as criticism of YOU...I think the entire film was meant to be an indictment of war as an instrument of national policy. Your very own John Keegan observed that once wars begin, they have a way of creating their own momentum and justification. It's for this reason that Herodotus said that "all wars are popular in their inception". The film, as I viewed it, was about the futility of war, the fixation of military commanders to fix the "previous war" and the price we pay for stupidity. The lesson should not be lost on the US in Iraq either.
There is not a lot wrong with this movie. The entire thing seems authentic
- meaning you feel like you're in Australia in 1915. You are living on a
farm, running in a race and ultimately in a war.
What is also very extraordinary is that there is not really a lot that happens, there is barely a plot. But it doesn't matter, because Peter Weir is a master storyteller. The actors are all superb and your heart may hurt at the climax - mine did.
Unforgettable, like all great movies.
A lesson still sadly unlearned by today's great "Empire" - this film builds perfectly to show that war IS terror. In 1915, as today, it is not the ruling elites that ultimately face that terror, but everyday people full of precious dreams and yet-to-be-fulfilled promise. "Gallipoli" follows the adventure of two Australian mates fighting for the British Empire in a badly-managed attack in Turkey during WW1. The deckchairs have been somewhat rearranged these days, but the message is as relevant, as chilling and as powerful as ever. A true classic.
All of our characters spend the entire first half of this movie
developing their personalities, and letting the audience get to know
them. The cast signs up for war, considering it to be just the sport
that it had been in past days. Instead, all of them, with their
individual phrases, look, and persona, join a cannon-fodder army which
could indeed be compared to hell itself.
One of the particular themes that shows in this movie is the replacement of conventional weapons. No longer are the glory days when a man could be shot, shake hands with his foe, and call it a day. Instead, we watch many of our innocent, sporty youths run up to "fight the turks," and barely take one step before the loud rattling of a machine gun renders him mutilated beyond all recognition. Indeed, the heroes barely comprehend the concept of death, as one of the most harrowing lines states: "Barney. He's dead. He was standin' right beside me, and I- and I though' he jus' tripped and fell. Y'know, B-barney's like that. He's- He...Was always clumsy."
Another is the use of your allies and soldiers as cannon fodder. To supposedly "let the British advance into the peninsula," the Australian troops, including our youths, are forced to run directly into the no-mans' land, being shredded into kindling while their superiors question their ability as soldiers. "Why aren't we advancing?" "But sir, all of our men, they barely get out of the holes and they die!" "I don't care. We won't win until we advance. The fight must go on."
A movie that easily sheds tears (well, I cried), Gallipoli is not necessarily a film to enjoy, but instead to reveal the dark side of the "modernized" Western World.
The Australian classic, handling a subject that is a significant part of Australian history and culture. The characters are heart-felt and sincere, without the standard mawkishness of American movies. They reflect the underdog, larrakin nature of the traditional Aussie spirit. This is the closest most Australians get to a blatant flag-waving exercise, so let us enjoy it! It certainly helps make ANZAC Day ceremonies a lot more meaningful to the younger generations, who need full-color pictures to help visualize the events. Of course it shouldn't be taken as a documentary, but I have heard that most war veterans approved of the dramatization.
Peter Weir has long been one of my favorite directors, and he has had a
career consumed by subtle, quiet, lingering films. He can make the most
banal concept seem thrilling and suspenseful; a perfect example is the
Harrison Ford film "Witness." It could have easily become a stupid,
insulting, exploitative "thriller." The ending is, in retrospect, quite
ridiculous. But Weir has a strange ability to make anything seem
"Gallipoli" is one of his older films, from 1981, and it stars a huge cast of names - most famous today, of course, Mel Gibson...whose name is now splattered across the front of the DVD case.
The story is a true one and follows a group of young Australian men who join the ANZACs in World War I. They are sent to Gallipoli, and amidst personal and emotional turmoil they must learn to band together and fight the Turkish Army.
The movie is long, as another reviewer on the site points out. But all of Weir's films are. What I didn't like about his most recent - "Master & Commander" - is that it used special effects (exteriors of ships, etc.) and action sequences (raging storms) to compensate for the slow bits... and came across (to me anyway) as quite dull and down-trodden.
"Gallipoli" is a great film - slow, subtle, low-key. It's a bit like an Australian version of "All Quiet on the Western Front." I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys slower films and can appreciate character-driven dramas. Don't go near it if your attention span was dimming during "xXx2."
Terrific film that so succinctly sums up the passion and the innocence
of the Aussie soldiers as they gave their lives up for a cause not
their own, believing to the end that duty demanded that they make a
good showing of themselves. This story is based in historical fact and
is still discussed today as one of the most terrible follies foisted
upon young men by totally incompetent military leaders. There are even
worse stories that are told about the wars outcome in France and
Belgium but this film captures enough of the tragedy to drive home the
point of how mad all wars are.
The very young and handsome and Aussie sounding Mel Gibson is very convincing as are the entire cast. Peter Weir crafted a heart wrenching film which ends with a moment that you just can not shake from your mind. Great film and very moving.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A lot male bonding goes on in Australia although men don't talk about it as
such. The word "mate" can mean anything from "casual acquaintance" to
"close friend," and is slung about freely. That word -- and the shared
interest in friendly competition, sports, and beer -- are about the only
ways this bonding is expressed. And it's all done in a lighthearted way,
joking and grabass, not the deadly serious way it shows up in some male
groups -- "Women have no place in this business," that sort of thing. How
male solidarity develops, nobody knows, but in the case of Australia it may
have something to do with the founder effect. The continent was after all
settled by outcasts who had nothing in common except their marginal status.
And aboriginal Australia was always a bastion of male solidarity, with lots
of secret societies from whose rituals women and kids were
That male bonding is basically what this movie is about, not war. We get to know two mates -- Mark Lee and Mel Gibson -- and through them, a number of others. There's hardly a woman in the picture, even before the men join the army. If it's a war picture, it's a mighty odd one. It's an odd movie for Peter Weir too. His specialty is the projection of a mood of ominous languor, and this is his most raucous work. Not that he's lost his taste for portents of doom. The men play a rough game of football and then Weir gives us a long look at the broken face of the Sphynx and has one of the men say that the Egyptians were the first people to try to beat death.
Gibson and Lee are speedy runners, and Gibson is given the job of beating death by human effort and he fails. The Australians launch wave after wave of bayonet attacks against a well-fortified Turkish position and are mowed down uselessly. (Their attack was supposed to be a diversion and turns out to have been unnecessary.) What a waste. Winston Churchill was partly responsible and the failure of his plan may have influenced the caution he showed during World War II. His attitude towards the Americans' eagerness to attack quickly and directly could be summed up as, "You don't know what it's like."
The acting is good. When I first saw this I thought Mark Lee might become a bankable star because he seemed the more handsome of the two. On an additional viewing, he comes across as, not effeminate, but pretty, and his voice is high which seems to sap him of strength. Gibson is darker and more of a wisecracking opportunist, and the better actor of the two.
Everything leads up to the climactic charge. There isn't really very much action. What there is, is violent and quick. The most gripping scene in the film is the final one, just before the third useless wave goes over the top to its death, the wave that Lee is part of. And we see soldiers stripping themselves of their wedding rings and other sentimental objects, writing final notes to loved ones, hanging their pitiful effects from bayonets stuck into the sandbags. The scene isn't wrung for artificial tears. It doesn't have to be.
Of all the wars of the last century, World War I, which used to be called "The Great War", was probably the most mismanaged. The aristocratic officer corps was out of touch with its men and often treated them as expendable material. Sometimes it was okay to lose 10,000 of your troops if it meant the enemy would lose 11,000 of his.
It ought to be mentioned that the use of Albinoni and other composers is apt but there is an underscore of electronic pops and ricochets that doesn't fit at all.
This is an atypical movie, one well worth watching.
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