Danger Close

Year: 2019
Production Co: Deeper Water
Director: Kriv Stenders
Writer: Stuart Beattie/James Nicholas/Karel Segers/Paul Sullivan/Jack Brislee
Cast: Travis Fimmell, Richard Roxburgh Anthony Hayes, Luke Bracey

On one hand it's a very American style film. There's a natural progression from a meet-the-tough-grunts establishing act right through to the becoming-brothers-in-arms-while-pinned-down.

It even subscribes to two of the most popular war movie tropes Hollywood's conditioned us with for decades. The first is where the godless hordes scream in rage while they rush the heroes' positions – completely giving themselves away (and where the real NVA were masters of stealth), and the second is how the heroes have to mow down dozens of them without a second thought to protect a precious few.

Of course, it was a template perfectly suited to the iconic Vietnam war conflict. When VC regiments attacked the Australian base of operations at Nui Dat by remote artillery fire in August 1966, the base sent a few platoons out the next day to find where they'd holed up amid the rubber plantations of the Long Tan area.

They suddenly found themselves overwhelmed by battalions of VC troops emerging from the jungle, all closing in and intending to crush the Australian presence. Several companies were pinned down throughout the day and eventually relieved when base commanders agreed to send a squadron of APCs to defend them towards the evening, initially holding off because they believed doing so would leave the base dangerously exposed.

The script by writers Stuart Beattie, James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan and Jack Brislee undoubtedly tells the real story as close as history remembers it (as the end credits shows, all the characters were real people), and it's just left for director Kriv Stenders to stage the action with a sense of tension and danger.

It's a bit tricky to follow in the early stages because the cast – mostly unknown or little-known actors – deliver rushed exposition about their relationships amid enemy fire or high-pressure warfighting duties, and it doesn't help that so much of it takes place at night with a bunch of white blokes all wearing the same uniform.

But when the proverbial hits the fan it matters far less, and Stenders has a good enough sense of geography so that you know where you are without losing track.

But there's one dour note I can't get away from that always colours my opinion of stories of military adventurism perpetrated by the English speaking world (see American Sniper for the most egregious example, but you can pick just about any other example from the genre), and that's how hard it is to disconnect the story from the overall geopolitical picture.

As much as war movie makers want us to feel that it's only ever about working class men who don't want to let down their friends, I can't help but think that every bullet that tore through the flesh of some boy who'd never even left his farm or small town until a few months before is because the US and Soviet Union had a four-decade dick swinging contest.

Worse still, all that death and destruction (and we only ever talk about the 58,000 American troops killed, not the Vietnamese casualties, which some estimates put as high as two million) was for nothing – communist North Vietnamese forces ultimately won anyway.

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