In August 1966, in a Vietnamese rubber plantation called Long Tan, 108 young and mostly 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
Australia has its own Steven Soderberg and Michael Winterbottom in Kriv Stenders. A director always on the go, taking on any genre from low to high budget and from art house to commercial hits. In Danger Close, (the battle of Long Tan during the Vietnam War), he creates a war film that plays on many levels, and this is my short twisted take on it, (with possibly some minor spoilers).
I felt like I was one of the soldiers in this battle because from the word go you are thrown into the chaos that is relentless, feeling the intensity that the soldiers had to endure. Yeah, I know I was in the comfort of the cinema, but the movie took over my senses with the haunting battle sounds, confronting images of impeding death and performances that drew you into the characters heart of darkness moment.
There were no laborious introduction scenes to characters outside the battle. The scriptwriters were clever enough to develop the characters during the lead up and the battle itself. Along the way they added small character revelations that made them humane and fragile. The most important factor was TRUST. Without it you would not follow your commander into battle. For Major Harry Smith it was trust that he had to gain from his young troops who at certain times had their doubts. Even trust of the artillery in the backline, firing heavy rounds that sometimes got to "danger close". But what I admired the most was the stance that some of the officers took in defying orders from above. Part of the larrikin Aussie attitude that saved many a life in the battle of Long Tan. (If only today we took that same ballsy attitude against certain politicians and their dumb ideas then this could be a better world.)
Hearing Travis Fimmel with an Aussie accent was a treat. Cast perfectly as Major Harry Smith, the unassuming hero of this brutal battle. And whenever Daniel Webber (Private Paul Large) came up on screen, I couldn't help but think of Sam Bottoms who played Lance in Apocalypse Now. Same demeanour (without being stoned!) and they almost came off as twins.
A top Australian production on all levels that is worth seeing on a decent large screen with big sound.
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