Viewers who recently caught Bruce Beresford’s latest film, Mao’s Last Dancer, during its run here may be somewhat surprised by his breakthrough film from 1980, Breaker Morant, a much tougher-minded film in every respect. This riveting courtroom drama—based on a play—is one of the key films (along with the works of Peter Weir) that helped put Australia on the world film scene. Now, when I call the film a courtroom drama that doesn’t mean that the film is in any way anchored to that setting, but simply that the story is built around the factual trial of three Australian lieutenants who were court-martialed in 1901 for executing several prisoners and German missionaries as a revenge killing. Much of the film involves flashbacks to the event in question and the events that led to it. It’s bold, uncompromising and completely compelling filmmaking.
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