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  • Colin Fraser


THREE STARS 108 soldiers defend a rubber plantation from 2,500 Viet Cong during the Battle of Long Tan.

Travis Fimmel, Richard Roxburgh


Kriv Stenders’ DANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN is exactly what it says on the lid. This as extremely visceral emersion into one of Australia’s bloodiest battles during the Vietnam conflict. It starts at the start and ends at the end, without straying at al beyond the battlefield where, for three horrific days, a hundred or so Australian soldiers held off twenty times that number of Viet Cong with few casualties incurred. They even kept the ground they were defending.

The Vikings' Travis Fimmel leads a squad of soldiers who have been sent to kill as many commies as they can and he does a perfectly adequate job even if the ghost of Ragnar haunts his character. Richard Roxburgh and Anthony Hayes lead the all-knowing officers while a cast of fresh-faced youngsters are lined up to follow Fimmel. Then they’re off to face the unknown terrors of the tropics and Stenders certainly winds up audience anxiety on a constrained budget. Rain, mud, pounding artillery and unnerving silence all all put to good use even if slo-mo gets too much use.

While this is an extremely well made film, it is one made in a political and social vacuum which raises the question - why was it made at all? 2019 is not a significant anniversary of the battle. The film doesn’t bring anything especially new to the genre, relying on oft-seen ciphers to carry us through: the stern but well-meaning captain, his over cautious senior officer, the gung-ho kid-from-the-bush and so it goes. In restraining the narrative to the battle, there’s no room in which to expand social or political commentary about a war that, arguably, Australia had no place in. Nor is there any moral uncertainty on the battlefield either: as the director makes clear, these boys are here to do a job, let’s watch them do it.

And if that’s the raison d’être for DANGER CLOSE, all well and good with better than average results. But if you want something more revolutionary about the revolution, it’s not hard to find a dozen deeper, darker, more insightful films with their guns cocked and ready to fire.

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