'Breaker' Morant Reviews
Saw this on 26/6/16
A true story based antiwar film that has some terrific dialogue and a good performance from actor Jack Thompson.
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.
It's a true story about three Australian soldiers who fight for the English in South Africa during the Boer War. The quick summary is that they kill some Boer prisoners of war and a German missionary, are arrested for not following orders, and brought to military trial. The entire film is the court-martial, and of course, the finale is the verdict and sentencing. It's got it all - outstanding acting, cinematography, costumes, and script. The suspense is very engaging and the climax is truly thought-provoking.
Like Gallipoli, it conveys the side to which Australia suffered in War being used as scapegoats. Although the context is significantly different, much of the meaning is still the same.
The medium used is courtroom drama, and in the simple small setting of a basic courtroom, Breaker Morant tells a complicated story with words instead of bullets.
Breaker Morant exposes the dramatic underside of the war that comes into court, and uses hypocritical scapegoating from the higher power as a front to tell an alternate version of a story chronicling loss of innocence at the hands of authoritarian control. And it's mostly a technical success due to fine cinemtography, good music and proper editing.
It's Bruce Beresford's fine direction and script handling which ensures that Breaker Morant is a story worth telling and is told as best as possible.
Edward Woodward was great in the title role as he was brisk and confident, and Bryan Brown and Ray Meagher supplied sufficient supporting roles. Plus, Lewis Fitz-Gerald did an excellent job portraying a character with such innocence which gets taken away from him, and so his performance reaches the high expectations of a character of his calibre from such a complex story, and he proves terrific.
It's minor errors are that the story isn't told perfectly at the start since it took me a while to comprehend what the story was trying to tell, as well as some poor lighting which made rendering the visual quality a struggle at moments.
But essentially, Breaker Morant is a classic Australian film which tells its complex war drama in a courtroom medium, and the fact that its a true story just makes it all the more brutal.