At the turn of the twentieth century, three Australian officers are court-martialed for alleged war crimes. With no time to prepare, an Australian major, appointed as defense attorney, must prove that they were just following orders and are being turned into political pawns.
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Breathtakingly shot, deftly written, superbly acted across the board. It's hard to pick a favorite among so many gorgeous scenes but the finale has to take the cake. Edward Woodward is excellent in the title role, but for me the performances of the film were Jack Thompson - always engaging even in his longest speeches - and Bryan Brown as Lt. Handcock, in what might be one of my favorite performances of all time.
In 1980, the film was an overdue skewering of war's relative morality (Kitchener looks an idiot, and the Empire are a knock-kneed bunch of conciliators here). Now: you decide if the Brits circa 1902 were creeping into terrorism, and then offing some scapegoats out of moral disgust (or as a negotiating tactic). Dying Morant (in one of cinema history's most striking executions), "Shoot straight, you bastards!"
The structure of this film is so unique and so essential to the depiction of what is just and unjust in times of war. We start off knowing very little about the men or the crimes in question, we learn little by little through their dreams and flashbacks, along with witness testimonies. Such an important piece of anti-war propaganda. And God, it's just so gorgeously shot!
A condemnation of colonialism and a repudiation of the notion that morality and warfare can walk hand in hand easily. The scene in which the chaplain speaks of the army's holy mission is profound and unsettling at the same time.
This feels like "A Few Good Men" for Australia, if not, a good double feature at least. Breaker Morant is more bleak and clearly has a point beyond the courtroom ideals. It is a period piece about discrimination of the highest order; heinous and old-fashioned. That alone makes the film important, I assume, especially for Australians and the English. The mechanics & filmmaking was solid but nothing too much to boast.