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GALLIPOLI

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee
Director: Peter Weir
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: December 13, 2005

“I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Not if I see you first.”

Film ***1/2

Unless you were born and raised in Australia, then you are probably most unfamiliar with the battle that took place during World War I in the year 1915. The battle took place in the Turkish city of Gallipoli, and it would have an ever lasting effect on Australia and its people. For it was the country’s first taste of the horrors of war.

Director Peter Weir recreated this chapter in history to a sheer, powerful effect in Gallipoli, the director’s first large scale production. For Weir, one of Australia’s most treasured filmmakers, it would serve as an opening gate for such bigger productions down the road like The Mosquito Coast and Master and Commander. There’s no doubt that this film helped in making Weir the masterful filmmaker he has become.

The film uses World War I as a backdrop to tell the tale of two close friends. They are Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson). The two first meet as competitive world-class runners in their native country. They become friends, and as World War I escalates, Archy convinces Frank that they should join the army to fight for God and country.

The two enlist in the Light Horse Calvary, despite the face that Archy is not old enough to fight and Frank doesn’t exactly know how to ride a horse. Regardless of their flaws, they sign up to fight. Both Archy and Frank are eager to do their duty, yet they are unaware of what awaits them in Gallipoli.

After enlisting, the two are sent to Cairo to begin their training, alongside their fellow countrymen. These sequences are captured most beautifully through Weir’s directing and Russell Boyd’s cinematography. Although they did sign up to serve God and country, it doesn’t lower Archy and Frank’s free spirited quality.

The actual war accompanies the final twenty minutes of the movie, and it is a most harrowing sequence. As the Australian army proceeds to rise from the trenches, they are picked off almost immediately by Turkish fire. Think of the opening of Saving Private Ryan, where soldiers were killed instantly upon arriving on Normandy’s beaches, and you get the idea of how horrific the battle was.

And the film includes what is simply one of the most heartbreaking final shots in the history of cinema. I can’t bear to reveal what happens, but believe me when I say that it will hit your nerves quite hard. It’s a shot that puts a brutal finish to the journey we’ve made with these two characters. It’s the kind of closing to a film that you simply don’t see anymore.

With amazing directing courtesy of Peter Weir, two engaging performances from Gibson and Lee, and an authentic recreation of WWI, Gallipoli is a superb depiction of the effects war has on the simplest things in life. It’s a journey that deserves to be taken, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the historical events.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic handling from Paramount is incredibly superb for a film from 1981. Weir’s vision and the cinematography are beautifully transferred. The locations are amazingly captured, from Australia to Egypt to Turkey. Though several night shots have a couple of soft instances, the presentation is mostly clear and sharp, easily making this one of the best rendered 80’s films to come out this year.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix boasts a nice sound quality for this film with a twenty-plus year age. The music selections, including the powerful “Adagio in G Minor”, sound nothing short of stirring. Dialogue delivery is nicely handled, and the climatic war footage delivers the kind of effect you’d expect.

Features ***

For this Special Collector’s Edition release, the primary feature is a six-part documentary retrospective, titled, “Entrenched: The Making of Gallipoli”, which features in-depth interviews with filmmakers and cast members. Also included is a theatrical trailer.

Summary:

Gallipoli is a fascinating depiction of the horrific and ill-planned WWI battle in Turkey that drew the Australian forces into war for the first time. It serves as a pivotal moment in director Peter Weir’s filmmaking career, and remains one of his finest films to date.

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