'Breaker' Morant Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 19, 2012
Zulu. The Man Who Would Be King. Breaker Morant. I just love jingoism!
Super Reviewer
½ August 26, 2011
At the beginning of the 20th century 3 Aussie soldiers are court-martialed for killing 6 Boers in South Africa, only the game is rigged. An ugly tale of military necessities versus political necessities made real by rich performances.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2010
Checking out the movies inspired from real events, I came across this one. Especially interested in crime genre movies based on true events, I just couldn't overlook this. An IMDb rating of 8/10 (at the time when this is been written) only added to my eagerness to check it out. It was like any other courtroom drama (here it's court-martial). Nevertheless, it was worth a watch. It depicts how some brave lieutenants are used as scapegoats in order to seek peace!!! The case was presented marvelously & it was intriguing to see how the relatively inexperienced lawyer of the accused defends them. However, one can easily deduct that the outcome of the case was already decided upon before even the case has started. The movie was handled excellently; it was interesting thoroughly for what could otherwise have been a boring predictable docudrama. All the actors play their part quite impressively. If you're a fan of movies based on true events, you might like to check this out. It's not too great, but is worth a shot.
Super Reviewer
March 25, 2009
Memorable Aussie film with some good performances and great dialogue.
March 23, 2008
Tough Guy in the Boer war, the Aussies had a bad habit of showing up as cannon fodder in a lot of Brit follies
½ November 8, 2007
Darn near perfect film about friendship, honor, war, and politics. The spare directing style lends itself well to the non-linear editing used throughout.
April 28, 2007
Great film about the potential insanity of mixing war, diplomacy, and politics. Solid plot with good characters that keep you hoping against hope till the end which is very crisp and shocking.
December 6, 2014
An intriguing story that has heartstrings plucked, especially at the end. The score is wonderful, the actors are devoted and motivated throughout, and the story is accurate, with director Bruce Beresford doing a great job with the film.
February 25, 2014
If a producer had received the stereotypical Hollywood pitch for "Breaker Morant," I imagine it would have gone something like this: "It takes place during a war-no, not one of the popular ones, it's the Boer War-and the protagonists are three probable war criminals, quite unrepentant... Likable? Well, one of them likes to recite his own poetry... Yes, it does have some beautiful outdoors shots, so we'll need to pay to send the whole cast and crew to South Africa, but most of the action will take place in an ugly little army prison where the characters debate the finer points of British military law and Edwardian era geopolitics."

Luckily, if any producer at the South Australian Film Corporation received such a pitch, they agreed to make the film. Patriotism may have had something to do with the decision, however it was made, because as it turns out this is a thoroughly Australian historical drama. Rather quietly, beneath the shouted legalese of a movie court martial and the coldblooded depiction of a brutal guerrilla war, "Breaker Morant" is about three men from different strata of turn-of-the-century Australian society, and how their loyal service to the British crown in time of war lands them in deadly peril when the crown decides that they are more useful as scapegoats than as soldiers or subjects. In the most moving, character-driven scenes, each man remembers and longs for home, Australia, where they have families and where the title character once enjoyed riding and "breaking" horses. Meanwhile, the script takes numerous not-so-subtle digs at the part-German royal family and at Lord Kitchener, Britain's most famous soldier.

For a certain kind of patriotic and historically-minded Australian, this based-on-a-true story which was originally a play that premiered in Melbourne must be a rousing defense of Australian independence and Australian bravery. It's a fascinating watch even for those without a dog in that hunt, but it is also fair to ask whether the movie is too uncritical of its subjects. Are they, after all, war criminals? Or does the movie successfully make the case that the real guilt lay farther up the chain of command, and that the King's Australian soldiers were caught up in an unprecedented and complex kind of war from which nobody could come out both alive and clean? The tone at the end is harder to swallow if you haven't been persuaded of the latter interpretation. But those beautiful shots of the veldt, and the thoughtful examination of a historical moment not often brought to the big screen, make it a satisfying film regardless.
November 11, 2012
Lt. Harry Morant (Edward Woodward) "This is what comes of empire building."
June 23, 2012
Clever. It might be slow at times, but you can feel pleased that you're learning about history. The ending is quite emotional too.
½ February 17, 2012
Similar to "A Few Good Men" but better, and without the stirring one-liner to remember it by. Well-made and rather intricate but good nonetheless.
December 22, 2011
"shoot straight ya bastards" - superb Australian court drama, and a wonderful, unique warm film with a tone all of it's own.
½ June 20, 2011
In the End, the Dead Are Still Dead

The first I ever heard of the Boer War at all was in one of the [i]Anne of Green Gables[/i] books, wherein one of the characters expresses delight that the Boer War is over, so Anne's oldest boy will not be able to be a soldier as he wishes and will not go to war. And for many years, that was pretty much what I knew about the Boer War. In that it was only when I intentionally looked it up that I even found out what the Boer War was about. I don't know if this is just because I'm American, but let's face it. We in the United States don't even know what the Boers are/were, really. I'm not sure how much we think of African colonialism at all, and the idea that different Europeans were fighting over who was going to run various colonies doesn't much make it into our history books, even though this was all part of the lead-up to World War I. So I will not be able to tell you how accurate this movie is to real events because Lord, I don't know.

Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant (Edward Woodward), Lieutenant Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown), and Lieutenant George Ramsdale Witton (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) are on trial for their lives. They are accused of killing Boer prisoners of war . . . and a German missionary. Morant insists that they were obeying orders. He insists that Lord Kitchener, the highest-ranked British soldier in South Africa, has declared that there shall be no more prisoners taken. He swears that the chain of command is just as responsible for his actions as he is. I believe they claim just to be innocent of the murder of the missionary, and I never did catch why he'd been killed in the first place. However, it's pretty clear from the outset that they are destined to be found guilty. No fair trial would involve your lawyer's having less than a day to go over your case with you, if you're on trial for your life. What's more, most of the people who would testify for the defense have been transferred to India.

My understanding is that this is one of those things which people in Australia are really inclined to feel passionately about. Sort of like Gallipoli; I'm pretty sure this movie was recommended to me because I watched movies about that. This is one of those things where colonialism failed all kinds of people, including both those dead prisoners and the soldiers who unarguably killed them. The men had joined the military in Australia, were under the understanding that they could only be tried by an Australian military court. They were the last Australian soldiers who weren't, is my understanding, too. The problem, however, is that there are no primary sources which might be considered entirely reliable. The trial transcripts have long since vanished. Witton wrote a book about the events, but he had every reason to specifically write to exonerate himself. It's also true that changing the story to support your bias is not unusual.

The movie, however, is pretty even-handed. It doesn't actually say very much on the subject of whether the orders existed or not, though it's quite clear that the filmmakers considered the trial a farce. (If the bit about the witnesses' being shipped off to India is true, it assuredly was.) Morant and Handcock are the sort of grizzled army officers you get in any movie about any army, and Witton was the standard young man there because young men join the army and fall in among Bad Influences. He believes that his companions are innocent of the murder of the missionary, and he cannot quite believe that anyone will seriously be able to hold them responsible for following orders. Morant and Handcock know that they probably will be found guilty, because they know that the British Empire needs scapegoats, and a group of nobody Australian officers will serve that purpose much better than sacrificing Lord Kitchener would. Each actor finds his character's note and hits it perfectly, though they don't really need to hit more than one.

The setting is pretty basic; large amounts of the movie is just your standard men-in-a-room courthouse drama. The scenery is actually South Australia, not South Africa; apparently, this was the first time Australia stood in for another actual country. However, by all accounts, it's a pretty good replacement. The movie only hints at the atrocities that the Boer War bred on both sides. Apparently, it is the war which introduced the word "commando" into the English language, for all there had been commandos in wars for well over a hundred years by that point. The term "concentration camp" wasn't invented during the Boer War, but it certainly gained a great deal more prominence then. There is an argument to be made that the Boer War is what planted the seed for warfare as it existed through the rest of the twentieth century. How much responsibility for the events as they took place can be reasonably borne by Morant will remain the subject of debate, but the Boer War lit a fuse which still hasn't finished burning.
½ February 21, 2011
woodward's last line = bad ass
December 1, 2010
This is one of the finest films I've ever seen...
½ November 21, 2010
Sufficiently engaging if not particularly intellectual; a piece too drenched in the melodrama of the times to surprise anyone now.
½ September 1, 2010
In many ways, this film single-handedly put Australian films on the map way back in 1980. A courageously told anti-war film, Breaker Morant contains some great action, tense courtroom drama, and terrific performances by the three leads, including one of the great courtroom speeches by Jack Thompson as Major Thomas, the defense attorney.

The film also raises interesting moral questions when warfare was becoming more and more brutal, and the first real guerilla war was being fought. The real question of good vs. evil can start with the events depicted here, and its clear from the start that its not easy to decide what's the right choice in warfare.

It's also an era that not many people know anything about, and that makes it even more interesting to watch today. In this era where guerrilla warfare and terrorism are commonplace, it would be good to remember the lessons of Breaker Morant and his fellows.
½ April 13, 2005
½ July 25, 2008
The internet keeps crashing on me. Making me crazy. Please be advised.

[b]Breaker Morant[/b] is based on the actual events during the Boer War, and subsequent court marshalling of three Australian officers. The government has set them up for a fall, providing them with an inexperienced defense attorney and allowing him little time to prepare his case. The trial scenes are tense and the flashbacks to what the men actually did in the field are also engaging. But I was really fascinated with how the men held up in their cells, preparing to face their verdict, and the politics of it all. Very good.

Ah, the [b]Sweet Smell of Success[/b], good in so many ways. Burt Lancaster ("Field of Dreams") is a gossip columnist and Tony Curtis ("Reflections of Evil") is a PR agent trying to get his clients some publicity. Only Lancaster's shutting him out because he wants Curtis to break up his sister's relationship with a musician. Then the plot gets twisty. Curtis is fast talking and sleazy and grasping for fame. The dialogue is so quick you have to sit up and take notice. Two of my favorite lines: "The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river." and "That fish is four days old. I'm not buying it." I thoroughly enjoyed this.

[b]Rocket Science[/b] reminded me of Thumbsucker. Mostly because the main kid is shy and then suddenly inspired to join the school debate team. The style of this is different though, less dreamy than Thumb. It was funny, but not too funny. The best bits being with the younger kid who lives across the street from the love interest. The soundtrack has some really cool instrumental covers of classic Violent Femmes songs. I'm lukewarm on this.

[b]Hellboy II: The Golden Army [/b]is just a whole lotta fun. Ron Perlman ("In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale") just eats up this character and loves every minute of his screen time. Director Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth" lets his imagination run wild with all the creatures and sets in this story. And the story starts strong and just keeps on going, quickly re-establishing the Team and introducing a very worthy villain in Luke Goss ("The Dead Undead"), an elf who wants to destroy the human race. Go see it.

A classic noirish thriller, [b]The Third Man[/b], stars Joseph Cotten ("The Survivor") as a writer who goes to visit a friend in post WWII Berlin, only to discover the friend has been killed just before he arrived. Cotten then sets out to solve the mystery of his friend's death. It's fast paced and intriguing, asking which loyalty a man should follow. There's a femme fatale love interest. And Orson Welles ("Moby Dick") is awesome. Very good.
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