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Breaker Morant (1980)

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

Director:

Bruce Beresford

Writers:

Jonathan Hardy (screenplay by), David Stevens (screenplay by) | 4 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Woodward ... Lt. Harry Harbord 'Breaker' Morant
Jack Thompson ... Major J.F. Thomas
John Waters ... Capt. Alfred Taylor
Bryan Brown ... Lt. Peter Handcock
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ... Lt. Col. H.C. Denny (as Charles Tingwell)
Terence Donovan Terence Donovan ... Capt. Simon Hunt
Vincent Ball Vincent Ball ... Col. Ian 'Johnny' Hamilton
Ray Meagher ... Sgt. Maj. Drummond
Chris Haywood ... Cpl. Sharp
Russell Kiefel Russell Kiefel ... Trooper Christiaan Botha
Lewis Fitz-Gerald ... Lt. George Ramsdale Witton
Rod Mullinar ... Major Charles Bolton
Alan Cassell Alan Cassell ... Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener
Rob Steele Rob Steele ... Capt. Donald Robertson
Chris Smith Chris Smith ... Cameron Sergeant
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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:

HERO OR VILLAIN ...his exploits shook an empire...and made him a legend. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English | Afrikaans

Release Date:

3 July 1980 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Breaker Morant See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

AUD 650,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$7,142,857
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The name of the song sung by the young Boer was 'Sarie Marais' (also known as 'My Sarie Marais'). Phonetically, the title is pronounced "May Sah-ree Mah-reh". It is an Afrikaans folk song, popular at the time of the Second Anglo-Boer War. The song is heard sung in this film by John Pfitzner who plays a Boer leader. 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

Harry Morant: [Thomas is visiting Morant on the morning of his execution] Cheer up. You look as if you were going to a funeral.
Major Thomas: Harry...
Harry Morant: It's all right, Major. I've had a good run. There's nothing for me in England anymore. And back in Australia, well they say if you need a couple of stiff drinks before you climb up on a wild horse, you're finished.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Introducing Lewis Fitz-Gerald as George Witton See more »

Connections

Referenced in South Australia: Ocean to Outback (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Sarie Marais
Traditional - Afrikaans
Written by Albert Diggenhof (i.e.Gideon Fagan) (uncredited) and Josef Marais (uncredited)
Arranged by Eric Cook and his Orchestra (uncredited)
Performed by John Pfitzner
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Well worth seeing.
24 January 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

"Breaker Morant" is set during the Boer War--a particularly ugly war fought in South Africa around the turn of the 20th century. Both the Boers (Dutch South African farmers) and the British committed a lot of nasty atrocities and many of the standards conduct during warfare were violated in the course of this war. Concentration camps, a scorched earth policy and the like were used to subdue the Boers.

In this film, three Commonwealth soldiers from Australia are up on charges for war crimes--they are charged with executing prisoners and the like. While the defendants do not deny doing this, the problem is that this was common practice and those in command heartily approved--at least until word of the atrocities leaked. Now, to maintain the facade of civility, the three soldiers are being prosecuted--scapegoats despite doing exactly what they were expected to do. This is based, on part, on a real case--though how closely they stick to the original is uncertain.

While most of the film takes place during the court martials, through flashbacks you see many of the events that led up to the trials. Some of the behavior of the men seemed incredibly savage (such as shooting prisoners who had surrendered on their own) and much of their actions seemed to make sense in light of the guerrilla warfare being committed against them. Regardless, what is clear is that the court really seems to want nothing more than to make examples of these men.

Not surprisingly, "Breaker Morant" struck a chord with many who fought in Vietnam and recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the Boer War, soldiers had no idea who was and was not the enemy and vague or politically motivated rules of engagement made fighting very difficult. The parallels are many--making this story rather timeless. This, the excellent writing and acting make for a very good film--one well worth seeing--even if it is a bit stagy (belying its roots as a play).


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