Film Review: Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
Director: Kriv Stenders
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, Alexander England, Daniel Webber, Richard Roxburgh, Anthony Hayes
Running Time: 118
Australian Distributor: Transmission Films
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan chronicles one of the Vietnam War’s lesser-known clashes: a 1966 confrontation pitting 108 largely inexperienced Australian and New Zealand troops against North Vietnamese forces approaching 20 times that number. Director Kriv Stenders (Red Dog and sequel Red Dog: True Blue) wrangles the film’s extended battle scenes into a near ceaseless, bullet-slinging barrage.
The film is a nail biting and dramatic exploration of war illustrating heroism, tragedy and the sacrifice of battle. It stars an A-list Australian cast including Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Luke Bracey (Point Break, Hacksaw Ridge), Daniel Webber (The Punisher, The Dirt), Nicholas Hamilton (IT), Stephen Peacocke (Hercules, Me Before You), and Richard Roxburgh (Breath, Rake)
The feature is undeniably one of the year’s big local titles, even if shedding light on a significant military moment in such a template-like manner isn’t an inherently winning formula.
The film depicts the titular one day battle in August 1966, widely regarded as the great mea culpa of Australian and New Zealand efforts during the Vietnam War.
Danger Close recreates the battle and the men who fought it – mostly young Australian conscripts who haven’t learned to shave and their various squabbling commanding officers.
The Aussie troops, most from D or Delta Company, are drawn into a protracted firefight with vastly superior numbers of Viet Cong soldiers, and all hell breaks loose trying to save them from certain death.
There is a Kiwi character in Danger Close who was arguably the battle’s real hero – Captain Maurice ‘Morrie’ Stanley. Stanley, along with two other Kiwis – bombardiers Murray Broomhall and Willie Walker – were attached to D Company as artillery observers, and at times crawled on their bellies just under the hiss of Viet Cong bullets to gain accurate coordinates to relay back to the New Zealand gunners.
Stanley grew up in Napier and joined the New Zealand military in Wellington, before being accepted into the prestigious Duntroon Royal Military Academy in Canberra. He finished his training at Waioru in the central North Island.
Unfortunately, Stanley is portrayed in the film by Australian actor, Aaron Glenane, who speaks in an Australian accent.
However, this is a film that was made with good intentions, and did the best that it could with some difficult subject matter. Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan is merely trying to tell you a story about some brave Aussie lads in severe circumstances, doing so in a likeable and engaging fashion. The final scenes are very moving.
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