Janet Maslin, New York Times
The first protagonist we meet is young Archy, played by Mark Lee. He has this perfect childhood innocence that makes him easy to love. You can sense his passion, and it makes some of the horrors of war feel that much worse when you put someone so wholesome in tough situations. He really has a starring role, and should share top billing, but because his co-star has made a bigger name for himself he is the one everyone will talk about. Yes, Mel Gibson is the other lead in Gallipoli, and he provides a good performance here in the early days of his career. He plays Frank, who is basically the Han Solo to Archy's Luke Skywalker. Despite being only about 25 at the time, Gibson plays Frank as a very seasoned and world-wise man. He's likable, but in a wholly different way from Mark Lee. He's the type of guy you want to hang out with, and you can see why he has such loyal friends. These 2 guys basically carry the movie, and I'm glad because they are so enjoyable to watch. Their friendship feels genuine, and it makes scenes later in the film much more emotional because you really believe these guys like one another.
Films like this force me to remind myself that PG-13 didn't exist in the 1981 rating system. The amount of nudity and blood really surprised me from a PG film, but in the early 80s there was a pretty big divide between PG and R. Aside from that slight surprise, I was pleased with how this movie was presented. It made me care about the characters, and therefore offered an engaging experience. My problem was that it took a little too long to get rolling. I appreciate the time they devoted to character development, but at a certain point I just wanted to get to the war. Then when they finally face battle it feels rushed. The plot also ends up being a bit too predictable, which is logical since everyone already knows war is hell, but it makes the long ride getting there feel even longer when you can predict potential outcomes. However, I can't deny that I loved the characters, and was emotionally impacted by the end. Sure, Gallipoli doesn't try anything groundbreaking or fresh, but it does present its story honestly and with heart. I'm glad I've seen it, and it might have changed my outlook on war movies.