Written by: Peter Yeldham, based on the novel by Roger McDonald
Directed by: Chris Thomson and Di Drew
Starring: Scott Burgess, Scott McGregor, and Sigrid Thornton
Released by: BFS Entertainment
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Don’t Bother
Billy Mackenzie and Walter Gilchrist are best friends out in the Australian Outback. Billy is the typical bad boy: screwing around, getting into fights, and being James Dean about 40 years early. Walter is the good son: going to college, listening to his parents, and nervous around girls. Of course, both of them are attracted to the same girl, a spirited lass named Frances (Thornton). Both men feel trapped in their lives: Billy by his reputation as the baby boy and Walter by being the dutiful son. When war breaks out in Europe, both see it as an opportunity to escape and become part of something bigger. But both will find much more than they bargained for in the tranches of Gallipoli.
[ad#longpost]This mini-series is the Pearl Harbor of World War I. Not the actual event, the movie. We don’t get into the trenches until episode five on the second disc. You have to sit through over three hours of cliche ridden soap opera that is supposed to be character development. We have to suffer through how Frances’ mother disapproves of her long distance relationship with Walter and the animosity between Billy and the local constable and all the family drama. Don’t get me wrong, some of this is necessary but it’s nowhere near as interesting as the life and death struggle during the battle. The point of a war epic is to see how the characters are changed by the crucible of war. But we are not given enough time to truly explore the horrific grandeur of the conflict or the culture shock the ANZAC forces experience in the Middle East. Even worse, the ending is so abrupt it’s almost an afterthought. The characters are struck in limbo and there is no actual resolution to their stories.
I will say that while the story spends too little time in the field of battle, what is there is quite accurate. You get to see the blasted heath of No Man’s Land, littered with so many bodies that a truce was negotiated just to clear them out. The chance that you could die in an instant from a grenade or a artillery shell or a sniper. How the pressure from constant shelling, poor provisions, and the primitive facilities could cause anyone’s mind to snap like a twig. And in the end, you ask the same question again and again, “What was all this for?” However, there are better DVDs out there for those interested in World War I. So don’t bother with 1915.