Gallipoli (1981)

“The attack must continue at all costs . . .” Directed by Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock), this powerful Australian war film starts out with innocence and romantic visions of glory in battle, becomes increasingly downbeat as the reality of war sets in and ends with one of the bleakest freeze frames in film history. Two ambitious young sprinters from Western Australia—the idealistic “Archy Hamilton” (Mark Lee) and the more cynical “Frank Dunne” (Mel Gibson)—enlist in the Army during World War I and take part in the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman Army. Highlights include Archy racing barefoot against the schmuck on horseback, Archy and Frank walking across the desert toward Perth, Frank’s futile, laughable attempt to join the Light Horse, military training in the shadows of the Egyptian pyramids, the visit to the brothel, life in the trenches and, of course, the tragic, unforgettable final battle. Weir was reportedly criticized in some circles for the film’s anti-British stance. Weir was inspired to make the film after an emotional visit to the Gallipoli battlefield in 1976 where he found “all sorts of scraps left by the armies: buttons and bits of old leather, belts, bones of donkeys, even an unbroken Eno’s Fruit Salts bottle. I felt somehow I was really touching history, that’s really what it was, and it totally altered my perception of Gallipoli.”

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