Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
dir Kriv Stenders
scr Stuart Beattie, James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan, Jack Brislee
prd Martin Walsh, John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz
with Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, Richard Roxburgh, Daniel Webber, Alexander England, Aaron Glenane, Nicholas Hamilton, Anthony Hayes, Myles Pollard, Matt Doran, Uli Latukefu, Lasarus Ratuere
release Aus 8.Aug.19,
US 8.Nov.19, UK 10.Apr.20
19/Australia 1h54

bracey roxburgh webber

england, fimmel and company
Based on an extraordinary true story, this Vietnam War drama is put together with attention to factual detail. It's skilfully shot and grippingly well-edited, with a superbly engaging cast. So while it's tricky to keep track of who's whom, especially with so little time spent establishing characters, every moment in this film is seriously heart-pounding, as a small group of Aussies and Kiwis try to hold back an overpowering enemy force.
Inexperienced soldiers from Australia and New Zealand with an average age of 20 have joined the fight in Vietnam. On a rainy August day in 1966, just 108 of them find themselves facing the main force of 2,500 North Vietnamese. Ammunition is running out and, because of the weather, air support is difficult. Brigadier Jackson (Roxburgh) refuses to help because he thinks it's a trap, while in the mud company commander Major Smith (Fimmel) tries to save as many as he can, and Sergeant Buick (Bracey) takes on a perilous mission of his own.
The script slowly builds the tension, as the atmosphere shifts from boyish relaxation to terrifying menace. Gnawing stress is the only warning before the action erupts, and it's expertly staged to put the audience right in the middle, carefully tracing how various units risk their lives to support each other. The battlefield scenes are shot with a visceral realism, as soldiers are forced to make one unthinkable call after another.

It's impossible to remember all of the characters, but a few key figures emerge to help the audience navigate the events. Each performance is riveting, engaged and packed with glimpses of personality, so what they're going through is powerfully involving on a variety of levels, from flat-out fear to pungent waves of grief, anger, concern and courage. Webber gets the most emotive storyline as a lively private whose character runs deep.

The film essentially consists of a sequence of large and small suicide missions, and each set-piece offers exhilarating personal perspectives how the battle for this rubber plantation keeps shifting. There's no attempt to offer the Vietnamese point of view, but at least enemy soldiers aren't vilified, because they're also just young men doing their jobs and trying to stay alive. So the point is clear and complex: war is pointless, immoral and inevitable, but telling these stories can remind us that fear and heroism coexist in all of us.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Apr.20

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