Running Time: 122 mins
Director: Jeremy Hartley Sims
Starring: Brendan Cowell, Gyton Grantley , Anthony Hayes, Steve Le Marquand, Chris Haywood, Bella Heathcote
Release Date: 16th April, 2010
Released a week before ANZAC day, Beneath Hill 60 is a classic war film which celebrates the Aussie spirit of mateship, and the bravery of our soldiers during World War I.
Brendan Cowell heads up the cast of A-List actors, playing Oliver Woodward, a real life Australian miner who fought on the Western Front in 1916. He left behind his young love Marjorie (Bella Heathcote) to join a team of Australian tunnellers, whose mission was to dig underneath German lines in Belgium and set off a series of massive explosions, with the aim of killing thousands of German troops stationed above.
It’s a story not many know about, and one which gives us a glimpse into the true horrors of the Great War. Knee deep in mud and water, the Australian miners worked silently in those torturous conditions, knowing their lives could end at any moment, with German troops doing the same thing only meters away.
Joining Brendan Cowell in the ensemble cast of Aussie miners is Gyton Grantley as Norman “Pull-Through” Morris, the always excellent Anthony Hayes as Capt William McBride, Harrison Gilbertson who plays the young soldier Frank Tiffin, and Steve Le Marquand, who steals the show as the gruff Sergeant Bill Fraser.
Chris Haywood also shines as an annoyingly by-the-book English officer, and Aden Young has a brief cameo as a Canadian miner.
The pace of the film is a disrupted as the story jumps back and forth in time, between the slower romantic scenes, and the action packed war ones. I understand why it was important to give background to the character of Oliver Woodward and, show what he was leaving behind, but these scenes are much less interesting than the war story.
Beneath Hill 60 follows the same conventions as your standard war film, with only a couple of surprises. For example, as soon as a touching personal story about a character is revealed, you know they are going to die.
One refreshing difference is that we are given a look inside German trenches; where you see how their soldiers were going through the same emotions as ours, giving the enemy a face instead of simply being stereotyping them as “evil”.
Uncomfortably tense at times, and beautifully shot, director Jeremy Hartley Sims has pulled together a great cast for an interesting story; showcasing the extraordinary task this bunch of ordinary Aussies were able to achieve.
3 ½ out of 5
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Reviewed by Alicia Malone.
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