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War films formed the basis of many a childhood, mine included, and this
is a firm favourite of mine, my brother and my cousin.
Made by the Australian film industry it is one of two films about the Australian Special Task Force Z during the Second World War. It shows that the war in the Pacific was not won solely by the Americans and that the Japanese occupation of China was brutal to anyone who would oppose them. Having seen photos of what the Japanese did to Chinese relatives of mine and to the population of China in general this film goes someway to highlight a rather forgotten piece of history.
Having said that, taking the film as an action/ war drama it is well paced and fairly realistic with but one feat of fantasy. As cinematic trivia it is noteworthy for the performances of Mel Gibson, Sam Neill and singer/actress Sylvia Chang pre-stardom. The star that never was, John Phillip Law takes centre stage for the most part but is beaten for intensity by Gibson as the young officer. The effects are a bit ropey, the blood has the red paint quality of war films of the late 60's - early 70's, but this adds to the charm.
If you like "men on a mission" films you should enjoy this.
NB- For more films on the Z Special Forces see "Heroes" 1 and 2 (made for tv). "Heroes 2" follows the same failed real-life mission as the second of the two Australian films whose title escapes me.
ATTACK FORCE Z is the only Aussie war movie I've seen yet besides RETURN
FROM THE RIVER KWAI. It's fast-paced, fun, cheesy and plenty
Jon Phillip Law (DEATH RIDES A HORSE) stars as an Allied commando who leads 4 international commandos to rescue a Japanese defector from a Japanese-infested island in the Pacific.
The movie features a lot of familiar plot elements, and strongly resembles the earlier American features AMBUSH BAY and BEACHHEAD. Only here, the movie is based on fact; a similar mission involving the "Z" Special Forces team was actually undertaken in the Pacific. The cast features a lot of young actors who were unknown at the time, including Mel Gibson (WE WERE SOLDIERS) as the team leader and Sam Neill as the radio operator.
The movie is obviously pretty low budget, as the action scenes involve few extras and are mostly skirmishes between the 5 commandos and Japanese patrols. There's some great martial arts action as a Chinese commando judo-chops dozens of Japanese soldiers to their deaths. The final battle scene, in which a handful of Chinese resistance fighters hold off at least a few dozen Japanese soldiers with shotguns is corny, as the Japanese always charge right into oncoming fire and never attempt a flanking movement. One resistance fighter stands in the alley blasting away with a shotgun, only dying once he's taken 6+ direct hits and grenade fragments. The Japanese soldiers look and act like idiots and use American machineguns, and the Aussies have M3 machine-pistols with silencers that never run out of ammo and never miss -- but what the heck, it's pretty entertaining and logic-free entertainment.
The musical score is great patriotic stuff by Eric Jupp, and the cinematography is pretty stunning. The Taiwanese crew does a great job with the little budget they had.
The version shown on TNT and TBS once in a very great while is of good quality. Unfortunately, there were some scenes in Japanese and others in Chinese which lacked subtitles. The closed captions weren't much help either as they read, "Speaking in Oriental Language". I haven't seen the NTSC video yet because it's far too expensive for my taste.
All in all, this really isn't the best war film out there. The action scenes bring the worst excesses to WINDTALKERS to mind as they're excellently photographed by defy all logic known to man. Still, the pace is fast, the characters good and the scenery is stunning. I give this a 6/10.
I presume that this movie was meant to be a tribute for the Australasian special forces operating in WW2. Now, I've no doubt that they were totally professional and highly trained individuals, I just don't think this movie did them too many favours. They made so many tactical errors and decisions based on emotion that I'm quite sure in real life, thy wouldn't have made. Individuals leaving their unit as they'd fallen for a girl! Sorry, but it just wouldn't have happened with so much at stake. On the positive side, this had a great cast and terrific authentic locations. The action sequences were well done and the torture scenes particularly harrowing. But at the end of the movie, I just sat there thinking, what were they really fighting for and was it all necessary? So many lives taken without a second thought and for what? Not a classic, but thought provoking which in my book, is never bad.
An odd little curio of an Australian action movie, made in 1982, enjoyable in itself as a popcorn movie for its WWII commando story. But it would largely be forgettable were it not that two of its lower-ranking actors--Australian Mel Gibson and New Zealander Sam Neill--were soon to became big international stars. Gibson, it's true, had made *Gallipoli* and a few other Australian movies, and Neill had starred in a delightful little picture called *My Brilliant Career* (with Judy Davis, no less), but both were largely unknown at this time. The headliner in *Attack Force Z* was good ol' American pulp-action hero John Philip Law, whose credits went all the way back to the early '60s and included the likes of *The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!* Yet Law, for all his good looks and occasional noteworthy appearances, never reached anything like the fame that awaited his two co-stars in this minor action picture. It's worth seeing if only to be reminded that *everybody* has to understudy somebody else early in his or her career.
"Attack Force Z" depicts a fictitious operation by a five-man team from
Z Special Unit, a predominantly Australian special operations unit in
World War II, who are assigned to infiltrate a Japanese-occupied island
in (presumably) the Dutch East Indies to rescue the aircrew of a downed
Allied aircraft. The team is plagued by recurring bad luck (which
quickly alerts the Japanese to their presence) and by friction between
the inexperienced team leader, Captain Paul Kelly (Gibson), and his
more experienced but erratic subordinate, a Dutch lieutenant named Jan
Veitch (Law), the team's most fluent Chinese speaker. When the team
manages to enlist the aid of the local resistance, further friction
develops between Kelly and the local cell leader, Lin Chan-Lang (Ko),
who resents Kelly's holding back information about the plane's
occupants. About halfway in, however, we do discover why Kelly is under
strict orders to keep clam.
For a (relatively) low-budget war movie, "Attack Force Z" is pretty good. The costumes and weapons are about as historically accurate as feasible, and the filming location--Taiwan--is convincing enough as an island at the other end of the South China Sea. Particularly enjoyable is the fact that Asian characters speak their respective languages on screen, rather than accented English. This, however, does lead me to the film's main problem, at least to me, which is that it's a mess ethnographically and consequently linguistically. Because it was shot in Taiwan with a mostly Taiwanese (or otherwise ethnically Chinese) cast, the island's population appears to be entirely ethnically Chinese without a single speaker of Malay (as it was then called) in evidence, the occasional pitji cap-wearing extra notwithstanding. This also results in the somewhat unlikely situation of Veitch being fluent in Chinese rather than Malay.
Veitch is the most problematic character in the film. The original director, Phillip Noyce, left the project at least partly because he disagreed with the producers over the choice of John Phillip Law to play Veitch, and bluntly, he was right: Law simply doesn't pull off anything resembling a credible Dutchman. It's not entirely his fault, though, because the writer and producers don't seem to have ever so much as met a Dutch person, as is apparent from the fact that Veitch isn't even a Dutch name (insofar as I can make out, it's Scottish). Admittedly, I am myself Dutch and my paternal grandmother's family lived in the East Indies so this is a niggle that maybe affects me more than the typical viewer but it's emblematic of what's wrong with an otherwise perfectly enjoyable film. Enough so that I can almost overlook how all the team members manage to stay clean shaven despite not having time to shave.
I don't know enough about Aussie involvement in WWII to say if this has actually happened, but I understand that there are definitely some things that don't ring true, accuracy-wise. The plot is fine, though I can't claim that this ever gripped me. Not even a firm handshake. The pacing is reasonable enough, and the battles and such have their moments. Acting is mixed, none of it got me that engaged in this. Was Gibson not a name yet? Mad Max was out, as was its first sequel. Did he not get recognition before Lethal Weapon? I am not sufficiently familiar with his career, and I frankly don't care to be. Neill, come on, he's got talent, had that not been realized at this point? Did he need a paycheck? That badly? Seriously? While I suppose I may have just watched a half-heartedly put together copy of this, I gotta say... there were a lot of speeches in, I guess Mandarin, that seemed to be important and like they should affect the audience, in spite of the fact that they were not subbed. What gives? I did follow the story, however, if the words were meant to evoke emotion, they failed. Still, this is not useless, or it doesn't have to be. If so inclined, you can make drinking games for it. How about every time a gun fires without making a sound? Each time the piece of music playing in this is one that belongs in a film at least one or two decades prior to the release of this. And of course, whenever you spot a tired action flick cliché. Make sure to stock up. I recommend this to the biggest fans of war movies. 5/10
A little-known World War 2 drama despite featuring the talents of Mel
Gibson and Sam Neill. The film follows an Australian Special Forces
team led by Gibson on a mission to rescue the occupants of a plane
crash-landed on a Pacific Island. Naturally, the island is swarming
with Japanese determined to thwart the mission at every turn.
The film is not without its weaknesses; Gibson & Neill are a little flat thanks to a script that doesn't allow them to show off their talents to the full(compare to Gibson's brilliant performance as Frank Dunn in Gallipoli made around the same time). The music is poignant but fails to add much to the drama and there is a low-budget feel to much of the film in general.
Having said that, Attack Force Z is fairly entertaining; it moves at a good pace and there are plenty of well-staged action sequences. The ending makes a strong statement on the futility of war. A decent addition to your war movie collection but for fans of the genre only.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Under the conditions this film was made, I think it sends a powerful anti-war message. When the film was made the original director left due to differences with the producers, a new director was brought in at short notice and that was an unfortunate setback for the film. This film has a great Australian cast plus John Philip Law. Mel Gibson plays his character with the conviction and talent he is famous for, he had just completed Mad Max and was well on his way to Stardom! This film focuses on a team of special ops Commando's call the "Z Force", similar to the green beret's, these were highly trained soldier's, equipped to handle the most impossible missions, this is one story of one mission which really happened during WWII, had this mission been a success,it is believed this would have altered the outcome of the war with the Japanese, unfortunately their mission was a failure and this is the message which is so powerful.. the total waste war creates. I enjoyed this film and i think you will enjoy it as well.
Sam Neill is such a hottie. And I love that Mr. Box! And my favorite scene in the whole thing was the one where the trees were talking to each other with the subtitles. Brilliant filmmaking!
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