Thursday, May 26, 2011

Breaker Morant

Bruce Beresford, Australia, 1980 (8.8*)
Memorial Day War-athon #2
This the story of a war-time court martial, and is based on true events during the closing stages of the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The officers are members of a mostly Australian unit called the Bushveldt Carbineers, created to fight the Boer commandos by employing their own tactics against them.

The charge is that the three men involved here committed murder by executing captured Boers, and also perhaps executed a civilian non-combatant. Their defense is that they were acting in accordance with standing orders, because the operational nature of the Carbineers would be hampered by having to keep prisoners under guard. Also, anyone escaping would be able to give their location and other information. Naturally, these are verbal orders only, so it's all based on heresay.

The British command sees the incident as a chance to give morale to the Boer side, embarassing their side, so command clearly wishes to portray the three protagonists as rogue elements and sacrifice them for political expediency. Similar to Kubricks Paths of Glory, this film examines the military practice of high command often sacrificing subordinates to cover for their own failures and indiscretions, in this case violating international accords by executing prisoners of war. Through the trial, we get the see the story told as flashbacks during witness testimony.

The overall quality of this film is impeccable, as is the cast - five were nominated for Australian Film Institute (AFI, equivalent of our academy awards) awards for acting: Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown won (for lead and supporting respectively), also nominated were Edward Woodward, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, and Charles 'Bud' Tingwell.

Winner of 12 awards, including 10 AFI awards, it's only 3 AFI losses were to other actors in the same film. This is both a powerful war film and a gripping legal film with a courtroom trial.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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