june 21, 2015
Although there are many films that recount the stories of young men from Europe and the United States as they faced the horrors of World War I, it is also important to remember that this was the first “world” war and much more than Europe was involved in it. Recounting the story of a group of young men from the agrarian outback of Australia is the highly-regarded “Gallipoli,” which came out in 1981.
For Archy Hamilton (played by Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (played by Mel Gibson), their ability to outrun almost all of their competitors is the only real advantage they have. Archy is a teenage rancher who is learning sprinting from his uncle. Frank is a railway laborer who has no financial or familial resources. Western Australia has little to offer in the way of social mobility. After a bitter race, they become good friends who end up joining the military to serve in the war. Initially separated, they are eventually reunited and fight together in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. One of the severest sites of conflict in the war, many in their company become victims of fighting.
Gallipoli is very well made by Peter Weir. The sequences of the Australian outback are set against a mesmerizing score. Just as well-crafted are the scenes of the races where we see the youthful exuberance of the men before they are confronted by the horrors of war. The battle sequences, which come mostly at the end, are disturbing as we see many good soldiers being gunned down.
Mark Lee is quite good as Archy, who very much wants to be a soldier, despite the fact that he is not old enough. Mel Gibson is great as Frank, who is less interested, but does end up joining the military as well.
Gallipoli is a great choice for Mel Gibson fans as it features a memorable performance from him as a younger actor.