I want to write and tell stories.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I managed to fit in Kokoda last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I always have an uneasy feeling when saying that, in relation to a war movie that depicts the action realistically. I don’t take pleasure in the vivid image’s of young men and women being killed or maimed in combat, but I think it is important that people see what previous generations went through to ensure we have the freedoms we enjoy nowadays.

Nowadays, unfortunately, CNN shows these images in real-time.

Back to the movie.
The movie is timely, and this was planned, as tomorrow(25th April) is Anzac Day (Anzac: Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.). The day that Australia remembers the men and women who have fought and died for this country. I believe that the equivalent in the US is Memorial Day.

Is it similar to the breathtaking scope of Saving Private Ryan, where you criss-crossed miles of well known battlefields. No. Is it a good film, yes. Could it be a better film. Yes, however that applies to nearly every movie.

The main criticism of Kokoda I have read so far, is that it does not tell a large enough story, there is not much backstory to the main characters(therefore you don’t get to see their motivation), and that the Japanese are faceless(literally, I don’t recall actually seeing one face of the Japanese), therefore you cannot see the enemy as human.

Okay, fair criticism, but I believe it is also only true, depending on your point of view.

Not enough back story.
They were drafted and/or volunteered and ended up there as chocolate soldiers. That is covered in the VO at the start. Yes, of course it would have been nice to have more back story on each main character, but that would have led to more locations, more cost. Have I mentioned the budget they shot this on? $4.5 million. How much did SPR cost to make? $70 million. Did the director/writer want to put in more back story, possibly. Could he. I doubt it on that budget, when you consider all the action scenes and the number of bodies (I am not referring to dead bodies either, just the actual number of actors) in the film.

Drafted? Bad luck, no motivation, but it happened, that was the reality. Volunteered? Australia was definitely perceived as being under threat of invasion, and this was addressed during the movie. Yes, you could go on and on about each individual and give that as well, but, in most cases, every person who fights in a war does not particularly want to be there, they just are, and they deal with it, and that is what this movie shows, how they dealt with absolutely horrendous terrain, and an equally horrendous enemy.

Not a big enough story.
Again, see budget. Also, guess what? The director/writer picked this particular story to tell. If you want to criticize, go make your own(talking to critics here) huge sweeping saga. Just better make sure you can pay the bills at the end.

Faceless Enemy
You could relate it to the propaganda at the time, how the government’s portrayed the Japanese and even German’s as vile monsters who had no regard for human life. Again, you can look at the budget and think, well if you don’t see their faces you can use these same ten actors in every scene.

The only two criticism’s I think are justified, is that I could see was that some of the exposition covered with the VO at the beginning was rehashed (not expanded) during some conversations early on in the movie. If anything, the director(he was one of the writers) could have used this time better. Also, once or twice the dialogue was sounding forced….and I must admit, it seemed more so the actual words used, rather than the actor, was the problem I was having with it.

I am probably coming across as justifying the movie, rather than showing my appreciation of it, however, the criticisms I try and explain away above, bugged me, as I believe they attack it in the wrong way. The critics all agree the movie is enjoyable, the acting well done, the story interesting, the action believable, etc. so why try and tear it down. It just gets my goat. If you look at it from a purely dollar point of view, for $4.5 million, it is nearly amazing that it is this good.

The cinematography, fantastic. Beautiful scenery(ironic as that was one of the most horrendous parts of fighting there), realistic, gritty and seemed very authentic. The movie was shot at the back of the Gold Coast, rather than PNG as the budget would not allow the logistics involved in shooting in the Kokoda area. It is that bad an area. However, the back of the Gold Coast is one of the Army’s main jungle training areas in Australia and the director visited Kokoda and believed that the GC was a fair match for the Kokoda area in terms of beauty.

I thought the actors did a great job, both with the dialogue and the action sequences. The lead actor Jack Finsterer fitted his role. and should be popular with the ladies. Aussies will recognise some familiar faces in there, but all give a good account of themselves as actors.

Is it as good as Gallipoli? I don’t think it is quite there, but more so because it is different. Kokoda is telling a different, smaller story overall, and the director is mainly trying to give the audience some idea of what a hellhole it was to fight in over there.
Definitely worth seeing at the cinema though.

I give it 3.5 out of 5, and for any of the people who fought over there, they get 11 out of 5.

Tough buggers, my hat goes off to them.



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