Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Australia, 1980. The South Australian Film Corporation, The Australian Film Commission, 7 Network, Pact Productions. Screenplay by Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens, Bruce Beresford, based on the play by Kenneth G. Moss, additional material from The Breaker by Kit Denton. Cinematography by Donald McAlpine. Produced by Matt Carroll. Production Design by David Copping. Costume Design by Anna Senior. Film Editing by William M. Anderson. Academy Awards 1980. Cannes Film Festival 1980. Golden Globe Awards 1980. National Board of Review Awards 1981. New York Film Critics Awards 1980.
Riveting drama based on the play by Kenneth Ross, about three Australian soldiers on trial in a military court for the execution of Boer prisoners. The dead men had been captured in a raid that was committed as revenge for the murder of a superior officer, but now the Australian army wants to end the war and uses the accused as scapegoats to avoid the revelation of more important war crimes further up the food chain. Although the soldiers’ lawyer (a wonderfully energetic Jack Thompson) puts on a terrific case, the outcome of what is basically a show trial is so obviously decided before it has even begun that one wonders why they bother with the formality of it all: the formality, as it turns out, is the basis of everything. You’ll be at the edge of your seat thanks to all the terrific performances, the screenplay executed perfectly and the outcome appropriately heartstopping. Definitely up there among the best courtroom dramas ever filmed.