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Kokoda - 39th Battalion (DVD)

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2 Reviews

Genre: War & Western - War / Suitable for 15 years and over / DVD released 2008-06-30 at Pink Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    2 Reviews
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      10.10.2008 12:30
      Very helpful



      Great war film.

      Kokoda: 39th Battalion

      When I saw this reviewed by Bike Dude, who writes excellent film reviews i thought I would give it a go, especially as my wife was out for a meal with her mates and I fancied a war film (that doen't happen often).

      The film is 92 minutes long (though it seesm a lot longer) and is rated 15.

      The director is a guy called Alister Grierson and it is by all accounts his first full length feature, it is clearly Australian made, for an Australian audience.

      I am not going to give you a cast list as no one in it is anyone any of you will have heard of, and are unlikely to see in any big budget films.

      ~~~The Plot~~~
      The plot is based on true events. A reserve battalion of Australian troops, nicknamed the 'chocco's' (as it was thought they would melt in war) are sent to guard a supply trail in Paupua New Guinea, called the Kokoda trail. Their job is to stop the Japanese infiltrating the trail and coming closer to invading North Australia....look on a map, it really is quite close.

      The group of men come under constant attack, run out of food, low on ammunition, and are exhausted. Amongst the group are two brothers who become quite central to the plot.

      I won't give away any more of the plot other than to say it shows the absolute worst of war (maybe should be rated 18) and some of the best in man.

      ~~~Cinematography and directing~~~
      It is slow, and I think that is intended as war is not all gun ho and running around. Whilst set in steamy rain forests, it has a ditinct trench warfare feel about it, and whilst set in the 2nd World War, it is reminiscent of the 1st.

      The cinematography is excellent, much of it is at night which is hard to film well, and much of it is in rain and mud. The scenery is magnificent.

      The music is moving and appropriate to the scenes.

      The directing is gritty and realistic in my view, much less Hollywood and more small budget, which seems to work well. The explosions, sounds etc. are all within parameters that seem real, not hyped and hollywood special effects.

      There is gore, there is blood, there is distress.

      ~~~~My Thoughts~~~~
      Not everyone is going to like this film for three reasons;
      1. No 'stars'
      2. No big Hollywood effects
      3. It is quite slow

      These are some of the reasons that I DID like it. That and the fact that it is a very strong story. Okay, the acting is not the best in the World, some of the dialogue is a bit stunted, yet it would be in real life.

      This is after all based on true events, and stuff of legend in Australia, so much so that there is a memorial in the area (maintained by local villagers) of four 'tablets' in the ground to this batallion with the words: Encourage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice.

      The film is moving and poignant and I would have no hesitation in recommending it.

      Finally, there are no DVD extras, good, I sometimes just want a film.


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        27.07.2008 14:32
        Very helpful



        Australian true story of a very bloody battle to save Australia {WW2}

        Kokoda-39th Battalion: A Review By Addy


        This is merely an opinion of mine from an observation, but it seems to me that the essence of many older classic war films was first and foremost to entertain as well as fill us with patriotic fervour when we show jolly old Jerry a thing or two. Then abruptly war films seemed to change direction with the arrival of Saving Private Ryan and the mood was to try and make you feel like you were there and have a comprehension of the horrors of war. There are even issues of morality sewn in for good measure "We are not going around this German machine gun nest and leaving it to ambush other troops" yet how many lives are acceptably lost for the sake of one man so that a mother can have one son left alive after all her other children laid down their lives for their country? Well as I stated before on my Assembly review that Saving Private Ryan seems to have set the bar for the standard of war films for the foreseeable future and again this is evident in Kokoda 39th Battalion. As a scholar of history {it is one of my passions} I am aware of many glorious large and small scale battles and wars that have encompassed honour and cowardice, atrocity and empathy, dignity and degradation and I surmise that many people have a story to tell. America has done so many times from Saving Private Ryan to Pearl Harbour, England has done so as well as Korea and Japan amongst others but now this is Australia's turn.


        39th Battalion (Kokoda)
        Director: Alister Grierson
        Certificate: 15
        Released: 30th June 2008
        Showbox Home Entertainment
        Features include: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio options; chapter index; trailers.


        The Kokoda film is set on a true story surrounding the threat of Japanese incursions onto Australian soil culminating in invasion and the Kokoda trail was the place that would ultimately prevent this or leave the doorway open for the Japanese to come in. Due to the true story aspect of the film it centres round the 39th Battalion for numerous reasons. Firstly the casualty list does not make for pleasant reading:

        39th BN Combat strength
        Start = 409
        End = 32

        Secondly the island's key supply route falls to the 39th Battalion which are inexperienced, untrained, and poorly armed volunteer and conscripted soldiers. In a derogatory manner the enlisted well trained soldiers refer to these troops as "Choco's" in direct relation to chocolate because they believe that they will melt in the heat of the battle. Disease and pestilence is rife with issues of dysentery and malaria amongst others. These rag tag soldiers are scruffy, disorderly, ill prepared, scared and disillusioned and are destined to come up against superior soldiers in their Japanese foe. A great deal of the films focus is on Jack and Max who are brothers that have pledged to each other that they will look out for each other until the wars over. These brothers along with a small group of fellow soldiers get disconnected from the main body with no communication or hope of aid. Considering that initially they were not there to fight only do menial tasks and unexpectedly ten thousand Japanese descend bringing oblivion with them.


        Simon Stone: Max Finsterer
        Travis McMahon: Darko
        Luke Ford: Burke
        Tom Budge: Johnno
        Steve Le Marquand: Sam
        Angus Sampson: Dan
        Christopher Baker: Bluey
        Ewen Leslie: Wilstead
        Ben Barrack: The Lieutenant
        Shane Bourne: The Doctor
        William McInnes: The Colonel.

        Something Old, Something New

        This film is the directional debut of Alister Grierson and certainly does offer something old in terms of like Private Ryan and some respectable releases since it captures the horrific nature of war. Immediately upon the films first scene it has some lovely camera work panning over objects scattered disorderly like spent cartridges empty ration packs and many varied dishevelled implements and items. During which is a piece of interesting narration setting the scene and informing us of the 'choco' label. This film certainly does not fail to deliver the goods when illuminating the non chivalrous, negative, terrible affects of war. Yet, this film also offers us something new. Firstly, and you may not deem this important but it is, it is told from the Australian perspective which aside from Gallipoli with Mel Gibson is not really spoken. Additionally to this the Australians have their own unique way of putting things as they give their own perspective. Secondly the film is set in and shows us the very essence of jungle warfare and just how altogether unpleasant it is. But what this director also brings to the film industry that is new inasmuch as it enhances on what has already been done in a manner never before seen. Allow me to elaborate. Not just satisfied with telling us that many soldiers are incapacitated by dysentery he shows us. Yes literally you see the diarrhoea erupt and spume from the soldier's backside. I admit initially I was so disgusted that I actually almost wretched. Yet whilst I was appalled I understood that the director wanted us to really understand what they had to endure taking realism to an entire different level. The atrocities you see committed are sickening and graphic in every sense. From officers testing their Katana {Sword} on prisoners and bayonets shoved into people's faces you see it all and hear the accompanying squelching, bone cracking sounds. To make all of this possible as well as plausible to the viewer it means that the special effects are right on the mark. My angst with this is that I fear it may lose audience because women may find this simply too much. Fortunately my wife thought it was a brilliant film but she adores big battles etc fortunately and she felt that the realism helped to relate to what actually happened. Maybe so but I am not too convinced it will be sufficient enough for many women to endure the more gratuitous scenes of the film.

        Also unlike many films of old there is no good old smoke me a kipper after I single handed kill a dozen or so enemy. As far as Allied troops go the Japanese soldiers were a formidable opponent even for adequately trained, well equipped troops. Especially in jungle warfare these soldiers were no walk over. During the film it is cringe worthy when you see over and over again these enemy afflicting heavy casualties upon the poor Aussies whilst sustaining minimal losses themselves. They constantly outflank, out manoeuvre at every turn with superior discipline, training equipment, attitude, morale etc. Many times using stealth they infiltrate and take knives to throats and the like. Sadly just when you feel that you are just getting to know someone they get killed and I surmise that although frustrating as a viewer of the film, this is what it must have been like for troops just getting to know a new buddy only for them to meet with an ill fate.

        One of the small negatives of the film is on very minor occasions the film slightly loses direction becoming a touch confusing and some of the stuff could have done with being changed or omitted entirely but it is infrequent and does not do a lot to lessen the respectability and quality of the film. I wonder if it was during editing that some important features got taken out that help us to comprehend these minimal occasions. However, what is shown through the shining acting performances is how these unlikely soldiers and heroes did something exceptional and unexpected which is stop the Japanese from establishing a base head for an Australian invasion. There is a lot o the film that I have not covered in this review to entice you the reader to watch the film and discover these attributes for yourselves. Although it carries a dubious 15 certificate I would not advise this being shown to people younger since the educational benefits will be offset by the trauma, lol. The film is bloody good and a worthy addition to the war genre. It intrigues me that with this being a directional debut and being good what will Grierson's next film be like. If you like the much appraised Saving Private Ryan I feel compelled to assure you that you will glean much enjoyment from this movie in some respects I found this somewhat superior to Private Ryan.


        "As Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force - I am privileged to be here today to honour the members of the 39th Battalion - men I am proud to describe as amongst Australia's most gallant soldiers, men to whom our nation is indebted for their heroic service on the Kokoda Track and in the later horrible fighting at Gona and Sanananda. Buna, Gona and Sanananda is a story about many great soldiers, units and Brigades; PTE Kinsbury VC, the 2/14th Battalion, 21 st , 25th , 11th , 16th and 30th Brigades; but today's service is to honour the battalion that took the initial brunt of the onslaught - the 39th."

        His Excellency Major General MICHAEL JEFFERY AC CVO MC
        (Governor-General Of The Commonwealth Of Australia)

        Hope you enjoyed the review and thanks for the reads/rates, Addy

        © July 2008

        Things I learned from this film

        * The Japanese would probably have had Guns N' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" has their military theme tune if they could have

        * Military cuisine is not very agreeable

        * Playing hide and seek can result in a sharp point thing going in your eye.

        *If it looks like a bush, moves like a bush, smells like a bush, and is amongst other bushes it's a....... Japanese soldier, so bloody shoot it

        * He's behind you...oh no he isn't, oh yes he is, oh no he...thud uurrgh.


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