(director: Kriv Stenders; screenwriter: James Nicholas/Stuart Beattie/Karel Segers/Paul Sullivan/Jack Brislee; cinematographer: Ben Nott; editor: Veronika Jenet; music: Caitlin Yeo; cast: Travis Fimmel (Major Harry Smith), Luke Bracey (Sgt. Bob Buick), Daniel Webber (Paul Large), Alexander England (Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Kirby), Aaron Glenane (Captain MorrieStanley), Nicholas Hamilton (Pvt. Noel Grimes), Myles Pollard (Flight Lieutenant Frank Riley), Matt Doran (Major Noel Ford), Anthony Hayes (Lieutenant Colonel Colin Townsend), Richard Roxburgh (Brigadier David Jackson), Stephen Peacocke (Second Lieutenant Adrian Roberts), Uli Latukefu (Bombardier Ray Ngatai), Aaron L. McGrath (Private Brian Hornung), Mojean Aria (Second Lieutenant Gordon Sharp), Lasarus Ratuere (Corporal Buddy Lee), Emmy Dougall (Little Pattie); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Martin Walsh, John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Stuart Beattie, Tony N. Noun, Silvio Salom, Andrew Mann; Saban Films; 2019-Australia)

“A familiar formulaic ‘War is Hell’ movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A familiar formulaic ‘War is Hell’ movie passionately directed as a patriotic venture by Australian filmmaker Kriv Stenders (“Red Dog”/”Kill Me Three Times”). The fact-based war drama tells of the little known bloody battle of Long Tan, which was fought by the Australians against the North Vietnamese army regulars during the Viet Nam War. Screenwriter Stuart Beattie and several other writers do the research to keep things accurate and authentic. But the film doesn’t excite, as it fails to make its mark on war genre films.

At the Aussie base camp of Nui Dat, in 1966, the gung-ho Major Smith (Travis Fimmel), an ex-Special Forces man, wants action and to stop babysitting his young green conscripts he’s in charge of. His superior officer, Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) turns down his request to be transferred, instead sending him out on a search and destroy mission.

After Smith divides the company into four roving platoons, one of the platoons, headed by the combat vet Sgt. Buick (Luke Bracey), finds itself pinned down with a broken radio. Smith tries to reach his trapped men despite the dangers. The film veers back and forth between all four platoons.

At the command HQ, General Jackson and his subordinate Lieutenant Colonel Colin Townsend (Anthony Hayes) debate whether to send reinforcements, a move which would leave the base vulnerable to attack.

During these tense scenes the hard-assed Smith is detested by some in his company, especially the hot-headed farm boy, Private Paul Large (Daniel Webber), who gets under his skin by questioning his leadership. But as the big battle nears, Smith proves to be a brave and caring man and the troops rally around his command.

There’s also a concert for the troops at the Nui Dat base by singers Little Pattie (Emmy Dougall) and Col Joye (Geoffrey Winter) in harm’s way and has to be evacuated.

The highlight of the film is the battle scene. It takes place at a rubber plantation in Phuoc Tuy province in August 1966. There’s a continuous monsoon-like rain and 1000 North Vietnamese regulars are trying to overrun a force of 105 Australian soldiers (and three New Zealanders) from Delta Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

If you’re in it for the action, you should get what you want. Others might not be interested in such a standard issue war film. 

REVIEWED ON 1/20/2020  GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/