By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The year is 1901, and the British Empire is mopping up a war in South Africa with the Dutch Boers. Lt. Harry “Breaker” Morant, along with two other officers are on trial for their lives for shooting prisoners of war, and a German missionary. As the trial commences however, it becomes clear that the British Command has set up the tribunal in an attempt to scuttle accusations that the high command itself may have played a part in the incident. While Morant (Edward Woodward) and his comrades seem poised to be hung out to dry, they aren’t exactly heros either; they openly admit to committing the executions.
You know who else wasn’t that innocent?
Morant and his men definitely did the killings, however they argued that they were operating under orders from their commanding officers. Very rarely in cinema is the audience presented with such a moral quandary. Can soldiers, who are trained from day one to follow orders without question, be culpable when those orders transgress reason? And even if they are to blame, shouldn’t the ones who give the orders stand accused as well? Filmmaker Bruce Beresford wisely allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions.
The story itself is laid out dynamically, with the courtroom sequences used as a way of relating the events via flashbacks. Actor Edward Woodward is fantastic as the eponymous character who makes no excuses for his actions. Morant is a poet and a dedicated soldier, who wishes nothing more than to go home after the war. His character, and his actions, can be used to compare with more recent atrocities.
Behind this leash, should have been someone holding her leash…
Where did the chain of command break, or did it even break at all? In the end the blame falls on warfare in general, and it is hard to make a scapegoat of an idea.
While the film was shot almost exclusively in South Australia, the terrain used is a dead ringer for the South African grasslands, and the landscape is beautifully shot. Particular attention should be paid to the use of lighting; the sun’s rays have rarely have painted such a dramatic canvas.
Very Pithy… get it, because they’re wearing Pith helmets?
“Ok, that one made me chuckle… you’re still an asshole” -ED
In the echelons of cinema, this one ranks with the best. Essential viewing.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when an objection is overruled
Take a Drink: when the Military band plays
Drink a Shot: when Breaker waxes poetic