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Breaker Morant

Year: 1980
Director: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, Bud Tingwell, Jack Thompson, John Waters, Terence Donovan, Ray Meagher, Chris Haywood, Allen Cassell
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The true story of the birth of commando-style, take-no-prisoners warfare as a Boer War platoon leader, Harry 'Breaker' Morant, and two of his lieutenants are bought up on charges against a court stacked against them.

Woodward, Brown and Fitz-Gerald are the three men predestined to take the fall for wartime killings and allow their superiors to avert a diplomatic incident. Having caught up with the Dutch troops who killed most of their comrades during a surprise attack on a heavily guarded stronghold, Breaker (Woodward) orders them all slain in cold blood for their actions.

What the prosecution unwittingly overturns is the whole notion and question of what constitutes acceptable conduct of war, the difference between military heroes and common killers, and the evolving nature of warfare in the mechanised age.

Hoping for an open and shut case, the prosecution doesn't reckon on idealistic young military lawyer Jack Thompson, who comes within a hair's breadth of vindicating the men before their tragic fate.

You feel for each man's bravery up until what ranks amongst the most sad and brutal scenes in film. Beresford doesn't cut away to show a flag fluttering in the wind with the dignifed sound of far-off gunshots, his depiction of Handcock and Morant's execution bloody, full frontal and violent.

A classic example not just of Australian cinema, but the oft-rehashed genre of the courtroom thriller.

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