Zulu

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 21

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 30,168
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Movie Info

Filmed on a grand scale, Zulu is a rousing recreation of the January 22, 1879, siege of Rorke's Drift in Natal, Africa. An army of 4,000 Zulu warriors have already decimated a huge British garrison; now they are on their way to the much smaller Rorke's Drift. A Royal Engineers officer (Stanley Baker) is determined to stand his ground, despite having only a skeleton garrison at his command. His steamroller tactics are constantly at odds with those of a by-the-book lieutenant (Michael Caine), who feels that a retreat is called for, but it becomes clear that if the garrison is to survive, they'd better pay heed. Jack Hawkins and Ulla Jacobsson are also on hand as an idealistic missionary and his somewhat more pragmatic daughter. Richard Burton provides the narration for Zulu, closing the film with the observation that 11 of the 1,344 Victoria Crosses awarded since 1856 were bestowed upon the survivors of Rorke's Drift. Zulu was followed in 1979 by a "prequel," Zulu Dawn.

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Cast

Stanley Baker
as Lt. John Chard
Jack Hawkins
as Rev. Otto Witt
Ulla Jacobsson
as Margareta Witt
James Booth
as Pvt. Henry Hook
Michael Caine
as Lt. Gonville Bromhead
Nigel Green
as Color Sgt. Bourne
Ivor Emmanuel
as Pvt. Owen
Paul Daneman
as Sgt. Maxfield
Glynn Edwards
as Cpl. Allen
Neil McCarthy
as Pvt. Thomas
David Kernan
as Pvt. Hitch
Gary Bond
as Pvt. Cole
Peter Gill
as Pvt. 612 Williams
Tom Gerrard
as Lance Corporal
Patrick Magee
as Surgeon Reynolds
Richard Davies
as Pvt. 593 Jones
Dafydd Havard
as Gunner Howarth
Denys Graham
as Pvt. 716 Jones
Dickie Owen
as Cpl. Schiess
Joe Powell
as Sgt. Windridge
John Sullivan
as Stephenson
Harvey Hall
as Sick Man
Dennis Folbigge
as Commissary Dalton
Kerry Jordan
as Company Cook
Ephraim Mbhele
as Red Garters
Simon Sabela
as Dance Leader
David Kerman
as Pvt. Hitch
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News & Interviews for Zulu

Critic Reviews for Zulu

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5)

  • This may not be exact history, but it certainly makes an impression.

    Jul 10, 2017 | Full Review…
  • A brilliantly made dramatisation of Rorke's Drift, and it does a fine job of capturing the spirit for which the battle is remembered.

    Jul 10, 2017 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • Joseph E. Levine makes an impressive debut in British film production with Zulu, a picture that allows ample scope for his flamboyant approach to showmanship.

    Jan 2, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Zulu is a fairly tough-minded and interesting account of a company of Welsh soldiers doing their bit for somebody else's Queen and Country in an alien land.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Students of such things in movies should appreciate this one, for it has all the standard ingredients of the heroic hold-the-fort film.

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It may not be truthful - but, my God, the result is thrilling.

    Jul 10, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Zulu

  • Sep 23, 2014
    Out on the dusty African plains a small group of British and Welsh soldiers stand pat to fight thousands of angry native types (imagine Custer winning The Little Big Horn) . Michael Caine's first up in the big leagues is a memorable actioner about resolve, courage and grit in the face of overwhelming odds. Released in 1964 it doesn't contain the blood orgy saturation we've come to expect of modern cinema (or even television for that matter!), nor is anyone human save the white people (and this despite long lingering opening shots of topless tribeswomen dancing! - National Geographic-style soft porn), but the thrills work nonetheless.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2013
    Man, as if "Tarzan's Savage Fury" wasn't enough for you, Cy Endfield returns to Africa to face the fury of many a Tarzan, and if you usually think that a statement like that is mildly offensive, then you probably aren't thinking that right now, because all of your attention is most likely focused on trying to remember "Tarzan's Savage Fury". Seriously though, Stanley Baker and Michael Caine join forces in the British Army in an epic-scale battle against the Zulu Empire that will define the destiny of South Africa! So, yeah, this isn't exactly what I was expecting from a film about the making of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Shaka Zulu" album, though I can't say that I'm too terribly surprised, as the empire that stands at the center of all of this warfare did inspire the "Shaka Zulu" album. Well, that historical fact let me know that this film could very easily have the barest minimum of relevance to the album "Shaka Zulu", and the fact that this film was released 23 years before Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Shaka Zulu". Man, I'm not saying that Michael Caine is old, but he was already a bona fide movie star in his 30s over 20s years before "Shaka Zulu" was released, but hey, he's just so awesome that I'd imagine we're going to try and get him to stick around a long while. Honestly, if Gonville Bromhead was half as charming as Caine is, then all of this senseless killing could have been stopped if Bromhead simply hung out with the Zulu leader and charmed him into submitting South Africa. Oh well, all of this senseless killing does make for a pretty decent film, though that's not to say that a statement like that is the only questionable thing pertaining to this film. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to find that, as bloated as this film's expository areas are, the full consequential weight of this film's subject matter feels a bit thinned out, yet that's not to say that writers John Prebble and Cy Endfield don't still try to pump up dramatic weight, sometimes too much so, because whether it be because of dating in dramatic storytelling or whatever, there is the occasional histrionic beat that challenges resonance, but not as much as moments in atmosphere that are more-or-less the opposite of overbearing. I wouldn't say that the film is ever boring, and would definitely say that entertainment value stands as adequate more often than it falls flat, but something that I really did not see coming is this film's delivering on many, many atmospheric dry spells, which loom over most points which aren't highlights in dramatic punch or action, distancing your investment with blandness, while leaving momentum to slow down to the point of succumbing to the pacing in story structure, which is perhaps just as limp. The film is considered epic, and one that runs only about 139 minutes, so I entered expecting there to be plenty of tightness to the telling of sweeping subject matter, only to, within moments, find my expectations betrayed by drawn out moments in exposition that bloat the narrative with excess, occasionally convoluted material, and do so while barely picking up all that much momentum. The film is action-packed enough for there to be plenty of places where you forget the excessiveness, but when things slow back down, they slow way down, eventually to a meandering, or at least repetitious state that leaves you to sit around, wondering when things are going to pick back up, especially when the bloated storytelling is accompanied by the aforementioned atmospheric dryness that fails to deliver on all that much intrigue. This is not good, because while this film's story concept is strong enough for a rewarding final product to be a very real possibility, as reflected by this film's coming close to a rewarding state, whether it be because of the limited fleshing out of subject matter weight, or because of irremovable dramatic shortcomings within an epic this action-driven, there's only so much meat to this story concept, as surely as there's only so much uniqueness to storytelling to keep blandness from intensifying. The film is a bit formulaic, and it follows its familiar formula in an all too often limp fashion that distances engagement value that was always to be limited by natural shortcomings, thus leaving this effort to, in spite of the strengths that leave it to come close to rewarding, collapse as just another filler piece from the war epic division of film's classic era. Still, the film does enough right to keep you reasonably compelled, or at least impressed, partially by some musical punch-up. Somewhat surprisingly, the film slows down quite often, and when it does, it has a tendency to exacerbate bland dryness by quieting things down, so on top of being, like plenty of other scores for 1960s epics, formulaic, John Barry's score is underused, but when it does, finally arrive, while you won't be faced with all that much that's unique, you can expect Barry to conform lively sensibilities that marry classical tastefulness with thrilling grandness in order to capture the film's sweep on an audible level, while sweep on a visual level goes captured by Stephen Dade's cinematography, which is strikingly rich in its plays with color, as well as broad enough in scope for you to feel the scale of this subject matter, especially when the grand action finally comes into play. The action is a bit unevenly used in this war epic, as well as a bit dated in its sensibilities, so it's not like the battles are tremendously thrilling, but they do mark engrossing highlights in the compellingness of this epic, with a thoughtful range that features anything from intensely sparse preludes to close combat to heavy intimate combat, but keeps consistent with a certain immersion value to staging that draws you in on the heat of the battles, feeling the dramatic weight they represent. The action is among the most effective aspects of this film, especially when flavored up by tasteful score work and cinematography, but honestly, the effectiveness does not end with the battles, because no matter how many shortcomings this film faces in substance, when it delivers, it wins you over. John Prebble's and Cy Endfield's script is pretty uneven, with expository and other structural shortcomings that water down the weight of storytelling, yet it has its highlights, such a sharp moments in dialogue to meet cheesy moments, as well as a certain colorful characterization, often brought to life by some charismatic performances. On paper, there's not a whole lot to praise, but there are strengths, and enough of them to bring much light to the potential of this epic, which owes most of the factors to its coming close to fulfilling such potential to highlights within another often flawed storytelling aspect. As director, Cy Endfield stands to play up the weight of this subject matter more, rather than get a bit too meditative on meandering and excessive areas in exposition, but there's a heart to Endfield's storytelling, and when it's particularly pronounced, there's no missing it, as Endfield will do such little things as subtly play up atmospheric kick in order to keep entertainment value alive to a fair degree through all of the limpness, at least until we come to a dramatic beat that Endfield is able to back with enough flavor to compel, regardless of the histrionic spots. I wish I could say that Endfield was more consistent in his putting his ambition to good use, but alas, the shortcomings in the final product are too considerable too ignore, which isn't to say that the strengths aren't just as hard to miss, as there is enough inspiration to this film for you to catch glimpses of what could have been amidst a consistent degree of engagement value, limited though it may be. In conclusion, some subtlety issues challenge the genuine effectiveness of intrigue, though not as much as the repetitiously overblown spells that, when backed by atmospheric blandness, leave you meditate upon the natural limitations within this conventionally told story, thus resulting in an underwhelmingness that is still formidably challenged enough by sweeping score work and cinematography, immersive action, and colorfully worthwhile moments in writing, acting and direction for Cy Endfield's "Zulu" to stand as a decent and sometimes quite compelling, if generally pretty flawed account of the Anglo-Zulu War. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 03, 2012
    Remarkably even handed for its time. There's no pro-colonialist messaging here and I'd argue that its not even a heroic action movie.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 09, 2011
    Pretty cool. Kinda like a British version of the Alamo, but just less of a symbolic event than the Alamo. I felt that the first half of the film (especially the beginning) can be pretty slow, so you might have to struggle through it. The second half of the film is intense...I ended up watching it in one sitting even though I hadn't intended to. It's just well filmed, well acted, and overall, a great example of cinematography.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer

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