(director/writer: Bruce Beresford; screenwriters: David Stevens/Jonathan Hardy/from the play by Kenneth G. Ross and the book The Breaker by Kit Denton; cinematographer: Donald McAlpine; editor: William Anderson; music: Phil Cunneen; cast: Terence Donovan (Captain Hunt),Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Lieutenant George Witton), Edward Woodward (Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant), Bryan Brown (LieutenantPeter Handcock), Jack Thompson (Major J.F. Thomas), John Waters (Captain Alfred Taylor), Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell (Lt. Col. Denny), Rod Mullinar (Major Charles Bolton), Ray Meagher (Sar. Maj. Drummond), Alan Cassell (Lord Kitchener); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG; producer; Matthew Carroll: Fox Lorber/Criterion Collection; 1980-Australia)
“Directed with great sensitivity by Aussie filmmaker Bruce Beresford.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A military courtroom procedural drama based on a true story that occurred during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902). Directed with great sensitivity by Aussie filmmaker Bruce Beresford (“Ladies in Black”/”Barracuda”) and co-written by him and Jonathan Hardy and David Stevens. They adapt it to the screen from the play by Kenneth G. Ross and the book The Breaker by Kit Denton. It opened the gates for a spate of great Aussie films that went international and were known as the Australian ‘new wave.’
It tells of an incident in 1901 whereby three Australian soldiers fighting for the British, Army Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant (Edward Woodward, Brit actor), Lt. Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown) and Lt. George Witton (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), stand accused of the murders of six Boer prisoners and the assassination of a German missionary, The Brits made them scapegoats for the war crimes they committed by claiming the members of the Australian Bushveldt Carbineers took revenge for the murder and mutilation of one of their officers by the Boers. It was a coverup to take the attention off them so the Germans don’t enter the colonial war on the side of the Boers (South African farmers of Dutch descent).
It’s a brilliant polemical film. A scathing anti-war film similar in tone to Kubrick’s masterpiece Paths of Glory (1957).
Beresford’s story places the focus not on the Aussie soldiers’ guilt or innocence but on his observations that war creates extreme acts by soldiers who are driven to sometimes commit them because war is hell.
Jack Thompson was superb as the reluctant defense attorney, while Woodward was magnificent as the humble wronged man and when compared with his hypocritical superiors appearing at the court-martial trial he even looks saintly.
REVIEWED ON 7/3/2021 GRADE: A