TL;DR – A powerful and deeply compelling film that explores a key moment in Australia’s military history and the cost it took.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a credit sequence and a mid-credit scene
Australia has a long history of making truly excellent war films. From works such as the pivotal Gallipoli to Beneath Hill 60 to The Rats of Tobruk and many more. So walking in I knew that there was a level of quality that was going to be there no matter what. However, for me, I can either be drawn in fully to war film or I can bounce off it like Andy Dwyer off an ambulance, so there was still a little hesitation. But I should not have been concerned because this is some of the best of Australian cinema at the moment.
So to set the scene, it is 1966 and it is the height of the Vietnam War, a Cold War proxy conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union played out in the context of a civil war between North and South Vietnam. The 1st Australian Task Force headed by Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) is set up in Nui Dat where they send patrols out into the local countryside. One night the camp is attacked by mortars and while the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery were able to target them, the 1st Field Regiment, need to follow up the next day to find the source. Alpha Company didn’t find much, so part in punishment Harry Smith’s (Travis Fimmel) Delta Company was sent out to chase them down while a musical performance was happening back at camp. All was going well until at the rubber plantation at Long Tan the 11th Platoon of D Company came under heavy fire and it is soon discovered that this is not just a raiding party but a full battalion of the North Vietnamese Army heading their way, 100 men against and advance of 2000 and a monsoon is just about to hit.
a production perspective, the film has a lot going for it. There is real attention
to detail with the costumes, weapons, and the general feel of the base. I think
a lot of this comes from the fact that we do have a lot of experience with
making war films, so there are stores of that kind of equipment that you can
access. But also, there was clearly a lot of consultation with people who were
there and that always gives the film a level of authenticity. While there is likely
to be a lot of focus put on the more showy parts of the film. I want to instead
take a moment to congratulate all the continuity people on the film, which had
to keep the consistent level of muck and grime over a long shoot. It is one of
those jobs that people don’t know about unless something goes wrong.
Along with this comes Caitlin Yeo haunting musical score, which might be the first original score to really capture my interest so far this year. It uses a lot of choral music which gives it an almost angelic feel, which is in harsh juxtaposition with what is going on. To add to this, the general soundscape was really good, using moments of silence to instil in you a feeling of dread before everything goes wrong. When it comes to the action scenes, they are less focused on the gore and blood like a lot of modern war films like Hacksaw Ridge. Instead, they are focused on more of the human element, so every bullet that fires is a moment of dread. When the film does have its big showy moments, it comes from slow-motion shots of artillery firing which I have to say was morbidly beautiful in places. If there was one thing that didn’t quite work, there were a couple of times where there was a little disconnect between the amount of rain and the state of the sky that didn’t line up. However, that is just a minor thing in what was otherwise a technically well-produced film, which I am sure was not the easiest film to shoot for the actors.
From a story perspective, I am not a military historian so I can’t judge if this is the right depiction of what happened but from what I can find it was pretty close. Whenever you are adapting a real-life event to a film there are some tweaks you do have to make to give it plot beats that you need to drive it forward. You can probably guess some of the outcomes before they happen, but given that you could already know the outcome because this is a historical event it is not a big problem. What the film does really well at the start is building that feeling of unease, like you know a storm is coming but you can’t see the clouds yet. This is also a very Aussie and Kiwi film, so I’ll be really interested to see how people outside of here deal with phrases like “We’re not here to @#$% spiders.” It would have been good if they had managed the ebb and flow between the battles a bit batter but that is just a small issue.
A lot of the focus is going to be on Travis Fimmel and his performance, which is good because he is giving his all here. Also, Daniel Webber who plays Private Paul Large and who has really carved out a niche for himself playing soldiers and brings all that experience to bear here. This is also a very ensemble film and there are a lot of small touches that make a big difference in bringing real characters to life. It can be the slight hold of a cross, or a quiver when holding onto a cigarette, just little things that help tell a bigger story about a character. This is a story less about the battle and more about the people in the battle and it is the performances that help sell that.
In the end, do we recommend Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan? Yes, yes we do. Rightly and wrongly, the Vietnam War is considered to be the forgotten war, indeed many at Long Tan did not receive the recognition for many years after. So it is good that we are exploring these moments because they are important and even better that we are doing it as well as it is here.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
Directed by – Kriv Stenders
Screenplay by – Stuart Beattie, James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan & Jack Brislee
Music by – Caitlin Yeo
Cinematography by – Ben Nott
Edited by – Veronika Jenet
Production/Distribution Companies – Red Dune Films, Deeper Water Films, Screen Australia, Screen Queensland & Transmission Films
Starring – Travis Fimmel, Richard Roxburgh, Daniel Webber, Nicholas Hamilton, Luke Bracey, Matt Doran, Stephen Peacocke, Alexander England, Myles Pollard, Uli Latukefu, Anthony Hayes, Lincoln Lewis, Aaron Glenane, Emmy Dougall, Ben Esler, Travis Jeffery, Aaron L. McGrath, Sam Cotton, Ethan Robinson, Beau Jones, Mojean Aria, Lasarus Ratuere, Shaun Barry, Sam Parsonson, Sonny Le, Christopher Sommers, Victoria Liu, Ryan Hance, Julian Cullen, Paul Allica, Sean Lynch, Oakley Kwon, Sean McCarthy, Sam Fraser, James Storer, Rob Schyff, Luis Barnett, Niam Mayes, Jordan Abbey-Young, Richard Te Are, Felix Johnson, Julian Lawrence, Connor Zegenhagen, Jay Kiriona, Joel Drabble, Vico Thai, Jarryd Doyle, Tom Yaxley, Alexander Canton, Alex Neal, Connor Clarke & Toby Blome
Rating – Australia: MA15+;