Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan is an Australian historical war drama directed by Kriv Stenders, known for Red Dog. It follows the true story of a single battle fought by Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the Vietnam war in 1966.
The film spends, what can only be described as, the bare minimum of time setting up the scene and the characters and thrusts audiences into the action, just as young conscripts were. With an average age of 21, most of the men fighting were inexperienced and unprepared.
This makes the story only more amazing, and tragic because just 108 of them are about to face off against a 2000 strong Vietnamese force when what started out as a fairly routine reconnaissance mission by a single platoon, becomes a full-blown, all hands on deck, all-out battle. This speedy and unsettling start is effective in setting you on an edge, which you’ll find yourself perched on for the vast majority of the film.
To be very clear though, it’s not so much a war movie as it is strictly a long, drawn-out battle movie that’s depicted in almost real-time, so sustaining a steady pace and constant tension is a considerable effort. The action is nail-bitingly tense, triggering audible gasps and jumps from the audience (read: me). It does become a bit repetitive, and while this may be a more realistic depiction of life on the front line, it also would’ve been nice to get to know the characters doing the fighting a little more.
The cast, though, does a solid job with the material they’ve got to work with. Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Luke Bracey (Best of Me), Stephen Peacocke (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), Anthony Hayes (Animal Kingdom) and Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge) star as soldiers who each have to make impossible choices on the battlefield.
As an Aussie that sometimes cringes at the acting in our homegrown movies, I’m proud to say that the performances in Danger Close are believable and heartfelt.
The dialogue feels a bit unnatural at times, but the almost entirely male cast has a nice chemistry that helps sing the song of soldier comradery that Aussie war shows (think Changi) like to sing.
During the film, Major Harry Smith says “Make every shot count” and Danger Close does exactly that. The cinematography is immaculate.
It is maybe even a little too sleek for an environment that is heartbreakingly rough, life-sucking and as gritty as it gets.
Danger Close is one of those films that is so very serious that the incredibly rare, light moments make you laugh harder than you normally would, which is of course, a product of your body begging for a bit of comic relief. If you’re in the mood for something to make you laugh, this isn’t it.
If you’re comfortable being uncomfortable though, at least for a couple of hours, then it’s worth embracing this somber beast of a battle movie that reminds us that there are no winners in war.
SEE IT if…
You have an interest in war history
You liked Changi
SKIP IT if…
You’re in the mood for something light
You can’t handle watching bullets break flesh
It gets 3 stars out of 5.
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