The story of a group of young Australian men who leave their various backgrounds behind and sign up to join the ANZACs in World War I. They are sent to Gallipoli, where they encounter the might of the Turkish army.
A promising track star\'s running career is interrupted by Australia\'s entrance into World War I. Archy is an excellent candidate for the Olympics, and coached by his Uncle Jack - \"How fast can you run?\" \"As fast as a leopard!\" - he nonetheless abandons his athletic pursuits in order to do the patriotic thing - join up.
Mark Lee ... Archy Hamilton
Bill Kerr ... Jack
Harold Hopkins ... Les McCann
Charles Lathalu Yunipingli ... Zac (as Charles Yunupingu)
Heath Harris ... Stockman
Ron Graham ... Wallace Hamilton
Gerda Nicolson ... Rose Hamilton
Mel Gibson ... Frank Dunne
Robert Grubb ... Billy
Tim McKenzie ... Barney
David Argue ... Snowy
Brian Anderson ... Railway Foreman
Reg Evans ... Athletics Official 1
There are anti-war movies that work by rubbing your nose in the gore and brainless waste of war, and then there are those that are more subtle and cunning, and approach your sensibilities from behind. Gallipoli, certainly one of the best Australian films of the modern era, is one of the latter. It approaches war as a game right up until the last 20 minutes, it derives comic dialogue from it, and in some scenes openly ridicules the concept of soldiering (a platoon is swimming naked in the ocean, for example, and one man is hit by falling shrapnel, causing resounding cheers - this means he will be going home.) It\'s essentially a movie of two overlapping halves: the first tries to encapsulate and describe exactly who the Australians of 1915 were, how they thought, felt and behaved; the second plonks them into the unnatural setting of a war run by the British, who seem quite alien in this film.
It is a long film, and it does move slowly, particularly when Weir is establishing Archie and Frank\'s friendship. But, as mentioned, the strength of this movie is that it goes to lengths to describe the Australian mindset of the time. Archie is keen to join up to escape the boredom and isolation of the farm, but is naive and unenlightened about why the war is being fought; when he meets a nomadic camel-driver in the middle of the blistering desert and tells him that the Germans must be stopped or they\'ll end up \"here\", the nomad looks around and mutters \"..and they\'re welcome to it.\" Frank, however, is more worldly and realistic about war; it takes a longer chain of events to convince him to join up, and even then he does so reluctantly.
These Australians then find themselves in Egypt, playing football alongside the pyramids, frequenting brothels and clashing with both local merchants and British officers. Cultural comparisons are made, then they find themselves at Gallipoli, one of the biggest military gambles of World War I and also one of its worst errors. There is a biting sense of \'war as sport\' from hereonin, as the Australians engage in games with the Turkish, without taking it overly seriously (or trying to look like they are). With the push into Turkey in stalemate, the British - always shown as the driving force - resort to charging the men from trenches into elevated positions protected by machine-gunners. From this comes the emotional, but hardly unexpected climax.
Gallipoli is Australia\'s All Quiet on the Western Front, but instead of using personal conscience and experience as its crutch and its catalyst, it reverts to that oft-used Australian concept of \'mateship\'. War brings together mates, then it callously separates them. You would struggle to find a movie that better illustrates this cruetly.
\'Gallipoli\' is the story of two young sprinters who join the war effort in Turkey during World War I. There have been countless war films in cinema history covering the different wars, the horrors of war, etc. What is unique about this story is its probing of two young friends and their journey into the military effort--unlike other war films, which deal directly with the war, 90% of this film follows the journey of these two young men before they transfer over to the war. The special quality of this is that the viewer gets to know these two protagonists very well and their humble lives in Australia--which makes the tragic ending all the more devastating. The last 20 or 30 minutes of the film is spent at the Gallipoli peninsula, inside the war trenches. The generals vainly send men running toward the enemy and they are swiftly slaughtered. These scenes demonstrate the horrible truth of war, that healthy young men with lives ahead of them are destroyed forever in a single, pointless instance.
The final minute of the film is truly heartbreaking, as a tragedy occurs between the two young friends. The very last shot of the film is stunning, as a horrible image is frozen on screen. Director Weir could have fallen into the sentimentality trap, but he was smart: the tragedy occurs, and the moment it does, the movie ends RIGHT THERE, leaving you with a haunting final image.
A lot male bonding goes on in Australia although men don\'t talk about it as such. The word \"mate\" can mean anything from \"casual acquaintance\" to \"close friend,\" and is slung about freely. That word -- and the shared interest in friendly competition, sports, and beer -- are about the only ways this bonding is expressed. And it\'s all done in a lighthearted way, joking and grabass, not the deadly serious way it shows up in some male groups -- \"Women have no place in this business,\" that sort of thing. How male solidarity develops, nobody knows, but in the case of Australia it may have something to do with the founder effect. The continent was after all settled by outcasts who had nothing in common except their marginal status. And aboriginal Australia was always a bastion of male solidarity, with lots of secret societies from whose rituals women and kids were excluded.
That male bonding is basically what this movie is about, not war. We get to know two mates -- Mark Lee and Mel Gibson -- and through them, a number of others. There\'s hardly a woman in the picture, even before the men join the army. If it\'s a war picture, it\'s a mighty odd one. It\'s an odd movie for Peter Weir too. His specialty is the projection of a mood of ominous languor, and this is his most raucous work. Not that he\'s lost his taste for portents of doom. The men play a rough game of football and then Weir gives us a long look at the broken face of the Sphynx and has one of the men say that the Egyptians were the first people to try to beat death.
Gibson and Lee are speedy runners, and Gibson is given the job of beating death by human effort and he fails. The Australians launch wave after wave of bayonet attacks against a well-fortified Turkish position and are mowed down uselessly. (Their attack was supposed to be a diversion and turns out to have been unnecessary.) What a waste. Winston Churchill was partly responsible and the failure of his plan may have influenced the caution he showed during World War II. His attitude towards the Americans\' eagerness to attack quickly and directly could be summed up as, \"You don\'t know what it\'s like.\"
The acting is good. When I first saw this I thought Mark Lee might become a bankable star because he seemed the more handsome of the two. On an additional viewing, he comes across as, not effeminate, but pretty, and his voice is high which seems to sap him of strength. Gibson is darker and more of a wisecracking opportunist, and the better actor of the two.
Everything leads up to the climactic charge. There isn\'t really very much action. What there is, is violent and quick. The most gripping scene in the film is the final one, just before the third useless wave goes over the top to its death, the wave that Lee is part of. And we see soldiers stripping themselves of their wedding rings and other sentimental objects, writing final notes to loved ones, hanging their pitiful effects from bayonets stuck into the sandbags. The scene isn\'t wrung for artificial tears. It doesn\'t have to be.
Of all the wars of the last century, World War I, which used to be called \"The Great War\", was probably the most mismanaged. The aristocratic officer corps was out of touch with its men and often treated them as expendable material. Sometimes it was okay to lose 10,000 of your troops if it meant the enemy would lose 11,000 of his.
It ought to be mentioned that the use of Albinoni and other composers is apt but there is an underscore of electronic pops and ricochets that doesn\'t fit at all.
This is an atypical movie, one well worth watching.
* The movie was initially to be made by the South Australian Film Corporation who were the original team behind the production. However, they withdrew support for the film over creative differences over the script. However, the movie was still partially filmed in South Australia: the Gallipoli Peninsula was filmed at Port Lincoln whilst the market sequence was also filmed in South Australia at a fish market.
* Producers advertised for 400 skilled male horse riders for the movie, yet only 200 turned up for shooting. The remaining 200 horse riders in the movie were women, dressed to look as men.
* Cameo: [David Williamson] the writer is the tall dark haired football player who gets tackled hard when the soldiers play football in Egypt.
* Carries the disclaimer: \"Although based on events which took place on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915, the characters portrayed in this film are entirely fictitious.\"