In August 1966, in a Vietnamese rubber plantation called Long Tan, 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers are fighting for their lives against 2500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.
South Vietnam, late afternoon on August 18, 1966 - for three and a half hours, in the pouring rain, amid the mud and shattered trees of a rubber plantation called Long Tan, Major Harry Smith and his dispersed company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers are fighting for their lives, holding off an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 battle hardened Main Force Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers. With their ammunition running out, their casualties mounting and the enemy massing for a final assault each man begins to search for his own answer - and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. The Battle of Long Tan is one of the most savage and decisive engagements in ANZAC history, earning both the United States and South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citations for gallantry along with many individual awards. But not before 18 Australians and more than 245 Vietnamese are killed.Written by
Many military veterans were involved in the production of this film, both as actors, extras or film crew. They are named and acknowledged in the final credits for their military service in addition to their film roles. See more »
A lot more soldiers have been killed in single battles in other wars, but not boys from a nation so young as ours was in Vietnam, August 1966.
Director Kriv Stenders honed his craft in 20 years of Australian television before tackling the sticky subject of our involvement in the Vietnam war, for the big screen. The story he chose, the battle of Long Tan, eptiomises the mess Vietnam was for anti-communist allied military.
Our small number of troops had no fighting experience in the terrain and climate of south east asia. Our government instated conscription to find the troop numbers it was tasked with sending, in support of the U.S., New Zealand, and a handful of developing anti-communist asian countries. North Vietnam (communist Viet Cong) were well equipped by the U.S.S.R. and China, and knew their battle ground well. This battle of Long Tan story isn't a turning point in the war. It is a frightening reality of how close fragile human beings are to catastrophe when battlefield circumstances quickly change.
Stenders executes the story with a firm, professional hand from the outset. Ben Nott's camera work thoroughly enhances the atmosphere, character development and storyline. Visual and special effects were seriously well embedded in the action. Production values are excellent throughout. Sound and editing also deserve a special mention.
While I felt he stunts got off to a slow start, once the director and cameraman found their stride, the impact of the firefights was ferocious and all too believable.
This was no mean feat. A good two thirds of this movie is from the POV of young conscripts, pinned under heavy fire, surviving and surrounded by exploding artillery. Stenders manages to keep us sufficiently connected to the characters amid this deadly chaos, without resorting to usual battlefield cliche's. The result is gripping, and at times heartbreaking. And, much to Stenders credit, there isn't a wasted frame.
There are a lot of good performances rung in in this movie. Travis Fimmel nails his Majory Harry Smith role and captures the screen. This fella can act, and he knows what he gives the camera. He imbues each scene with appropriate weight and intensity.
Richard Roxburgh is at the peak of his film acting powers in this one.
He could have made his antagonistic Brigadier Jackson into a two dimensional character and gotten away with it. But he, too, shows his craft.
He provides us solid glimpses of Jackson's conflict and humanity, trapped beneath the institution of his command.
I've said this in other reviews, and it holds true for this one. The supporting cast is uniformly good. I'm leaving many names out here that should be included, but just peruse the cast list for those not mentioned. They all equally deserve to be. Daniel Webber as the fresh faced Private Large, Nicholas Hamilton's Private Grimes,Mojean Aria's Second Lieutenant Gordon Sharp, Stephen Peacocke, Luke Bracey, Myles Pollard and Uli Latukefu, who stole scenes amid firing field artillery, show how well directed this movie is, and how much this story meant to the actors.
That there was room in this film to lend the enemy a more human face is a small criticism given what is acheived. The battle of Long Tan was a frightening punctuation point in our history. While Stender's film reveals itself a study of courage under fire, it has taken Australia decades to fully understand the cost of sending these19, 20, 21 year old conscripts into battle. I hope we learn from history, this lesson is never to be repeated.
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