Release – 2006
Kokoda tells of one of one of history’s most incredible underdog stories and one of Australia’s greatest tales, the story of the ‘Chocos’. Adter the fall of Singapore in 1942 almost an entire devision of Australia’s forces were captured. Meanwhile the Australian Imperial Force (the AIF), the only remaining troops of their professional military were stationed in North Africa fighting the Axis forces. The only men left to defend New Guinea were the militiamen and conscripts, deemed unsuitable for combat duties. Usually given cargo duty and other more menial tasks, these men (the Chocos) were rushed into the war zone with minimal to no combat training. These men were initially stationed at Port Moresby, from there they had to traverse the agonising south eastern section of the central mountain-chain, the Owen Stanley Range along the only track available to them, the Kokoda track, a path the Japanese forces would easily find them on.
The film is based upon true events and is inspired by the tale of a single forward patrol led by a Lieutenant Sword, the patrol found themselves low on supplies and without food whilst having to carry the wounded and sick who were suffering from tropical diseases until they reached Alola. They received the news that the 39th Battalion was in the process of being overrun, on hearing this they joined a party of critically wounded men and headed back into battle. The film plays on the tensions of the situation, barely showing us the Japanese enemies in order to illustrate the claustrophobic conditions of jungle warfare.
Release – 1980
Breaker Morantisn’t your straight up ‘soldiers thrown into battle’ type film, here’s a movie that concerns itself with the politics of war and asks what place morals have in the whole affair? It’s co-written and directed by Bruce Beresford and is based on the stage play of the same name which was written by Kenneth G. Ross. Once again, it’s based on true events, this time telling the story of Lieutenants Peter Hancock, George Witton and of course, Henry Morant who were court martialled in one of the first ever war crime prosecutions in the history of the British Military. These men were accused of murdering both captured enemy soldiers as well as an unarmed civilian which took place in the Northern Transvaal during the Second Angle-Boer War. The story is set in during the trial of the men in question and shows the events that took place in the war through flashbacks. It is notable for exploring the use of the Nuremberg Defence along with the ideals behind the death sentence and the price that total war costs our humanity.
The film is renowned for its portrayal of the men as Australian heroes who were used as scape goats by the British however this was never Beresford’s intention was to show how war can lead seemingly normal people to commit atrocities.