Hello and welcome! Today, I’m going to be gushing about a movie I watched yesterday called Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. For those who don’t know, yesterday (18th August) was the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, a battle with an ambiguous outcome that was fought by Australian and New Zealand soldiers during the Vietnam War. Both the Viet Cong and the Anzac forces claimed victory of the battle, but it has gone down in Australian legend to almost the extent that Gallipoli has. Essentially, it was a little over 100 Anzac soldiers against 500-600 Vietnamese, which is incredibly bad odds. No one really won, but only 18 Anzac soldiers died in the skirmish, which is fairly impressive.
Anyway, so yesterday I sat down to watch a movie and ended up picking this one out. As I started to watch it, I realised that I happened to be watching the movie on the 64th Anniversary of the actual battle (no joke, I honestly didn’t realise when I started watching it). I’ve always felt a bit of a connection to this battle, because I spent months of my life as a fifteen year old, researching the Vietnam War, interviewing people who fought in the war and writing an essay on Indigenous soldiers, which later won a prize and is one of my proudest moments. But I still couldn’t remember the date.
And so, while I originally had something else planned for today’s Australian Story, I’ll be talking about Danger Close today.
Basically, this movie follows in the wake of very successful movies such as Dunkirk. It’s based on a true story and it follows a similar storytelling device as Dunkirk, taking place over a four or five hour period, and follows several characters in different areas of the battle.
Our main character is Major Harry Smith (Travis Fimmel), an ambitious and arrogant major who is bitter at being assigned to a Company that consists mainly of conscripts. He feels his talents are wasted in this current assignment and a call out to the Long Tan Rubber Plantation is merely an annoyance to him.
We follow a few other characters too, such as Pte Paul Large (Daniel Webber), Cpl Buddy Lea (Lasarus Ratuere), Sgt Bob Buick (Luke Bracey) and Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh).
And the plot itself is very simple. The characters are trying to stay alive and rescue 11 Platoon of D Company, who are trapped 400m in front of the rest of the Company. Unfortunately, the Brigadier has ordered them to return to base. So that’s the main conflict of the movie.
What Did I Think of The Story?
I loved it. When I first put it on, I was worried that it was either going to be a dramatised documentary, or an overly patriotic, gory bloodbath bearing little resemblance to the actual historical event.
Fortunately, I didn’t think it fell into either category. It was pretty historically accurate (I couldn’t find any major issues with it), but it also engaged in character development, particularly with Harry Smith and it did have a plot. I also felt that it didn’t engage in gory action scenes and it wasn’t like “white men good, Asian commies bad!” Obviously though, there wasn’t much character development given to the Viet Cong soldiers. However, I felt this approach was justified since the movie was a very personal look at the battle from the eyes of the very young and impressionable conscripted soldiers who fought in it.
The acting was also very well done. There aren’t any big name actors in this movie, but every one of them portrayed his character effectively and believably. The cinematography was also simple and effective and it made the movie a joy to watch.
As I mentioned before, Long Tan is deeply embedded in Australian culture. Whether rightly or wrongly, we hold it up as an example of Australian courage and resilience. So this story does hold an important place in our heritage.
One of the touches I really liked in this was the inclusion of several Polynesian actors, and particularly the inclusion of Lasarus Ratuere as Buddy Lea. Corporal Lea was a soldier of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander heritage and he was well-known for his bravery during the war. He’s been largely forgotten since then and it was really nice to see him get a little bit of the recognition he deserves. There were also a number of other Polynesian soldiers and just the small act of having them included made me really happy.
Also, there was a scene at the beginning where the Nui Dat base is under fire and one of the soldiers makes the Major a cup of tea. Upon being offered the cup of tea, the major yells, “We’re under attack and your first instinct is to make me a cup of tea! Get the hell out of here!” and when the soldier tries to walk away with the cup of tea– “No, leave that!” It just struck me as the most Australian thing to do in a crisis.
And there was plenty of swearing. Nothing more Aussie than that.
What about you guys? Have you seen any movies about the Vietnam War? Have you seen this movie? What are your opinions on war movies in general? Is a cup of tea the best way to deal with a crisis?