MOVIE REVIEW: Old-fashioned tale of courage and mateship
DANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN
Director: Kriv Stenders
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, Richard Roxburgh
Running time: 118 minutes
Verdict: Solid Aussie battle drama
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan reduces the most recognised Australian battle of the Vietnam War - in which a young, inexperienced and vastly outnumbered company of ANZAC soldiers held out against 2000 Vietcong - to it bare essentials.
A timely complement to the 40th anniversary re-release of Francis Ford Coppola's sprawling masterpiece, Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, this lean, mean fighting machine takes place in the one location: a rubber plantation in the Phuoc Tuy Province.
After the operation base at Nui Dat is attacked by enemy forces, 105 Australian soldiers and a three-man New Zealand artillery team set out in pursuit.
When one of their platoons comes under heavy fire, from multiple directions, the ANZACs realise that they have severely underestimated their opponents, who are much better equipped and far more numerous than their superiors had anticipated.
Unlike classic Australian war movies such as Breaker Morant (1980) and Gallipoli (1981), Danger Close isn't overly interested in the politics of war.
This is the story of how a small bunch of men head off a military disaster - basically through sheer grit.
Told from the point of view of the Australian soldiers, it's an old-fashioned tale of courage, mateship and survival that plays in a contemporary environment because of its emotional restraint and absence of jingoism.
While the Vietcong aren't humanised, they aren't demonised either - and the archival footage at the end of the film makes it clear that many were barely men themselves.
Vikings' Travis Fimmel commands attention in the role of Major Harry Smith, a professional soldier who doesn't hide his displeasure at having to lead a bunch of amateurs into battle.
Thanks to his rigorous standards, more of the men survive than might otherwise have been the case.
Luke Bracey (Point Break, Hacksaw Ridge), as Smith's right-hand man, Sergeant Bob Buick, is the other classically handsome, Hollywood-style war movie hero on this battlefield.
But what's unusual, and appealing, about Danger Close, is that not all of the supporting soldiers are even-featured and chisel-jawed.
The diversity of the casting lends the film a strong sense of authenticity - particularly when the actors are shown alongside photographs of their real-life counterparts in the final credits.
The film's "villains" - Richard Roxburgh's arse-covering Brigadier and Anthony Hayes' self-aggrandising Lieutenant Colonel - are a little more stereotypical.
A straightforward but compelling account of a significant military victory in an unpopular war.