“The extraordinary true story of Oliver Woodward. It’s 1916 and Woodward must tear himself from his new young love to go to the mud and carnage of the Western Front. Deep beneath the German lines. Woodward and his secret platoon of Australian tunnelers fight to defend a leaking, labyrinthine tunnel system packed with enough high explosives to change the course of the War.”
Cast: Brendan Cowell (Captain Oliver Woodward), Harrison Gilbertson (Frank Tiffin), Steve Le Marquand (Sergeant Bill Fraser), Gyton Grantley (Norman Morris) Alex Thompson (Walter Sneddon)
Directed By: Jeremy Sims (Last Train to Freo)
I hadn’t heard about this film until I got the invite to go see it, within the days that followed Paramount Picture’s PR team saturated the market even hitting Australian 60 Minutes as a feature story. I’ve always been a massive fan of war films, “Saving Private Ryan” and “We Were Soldiers” just two of my favourites, but they have always been your big budget American War Films. I have been waiting for years for Australia to produce a decent War related film, not since watching Frank Dunne played by Mel Gibson hit the shores in the 1981 classic Gallipoli has there been anything close to a reasonable war film shot in Australia, well until now.
Beneath Hill 60 is based on an extraordinary true story of Oliver Woodward, who captained the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company in France between 1915 and 1919. Brendan Cowell leads the impressive Aussie cast as Captain Woodward who has also starred in such films as the AFI Award winning “Noise”, Gyton Grantley from Underbelly Fame and Jacqueline McKenzie just to name a few. Jeremy Sims who also brought you the Film “Last Train to Freo” decides once again to be on the opposite side of the camera taking on the directorial role in Beneath Hill 60.
I went into this film with fairly low expectations but I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat throughout most of it. The scenes set on the frontlines of France (which were actually filmed just outside of Townsville, Queensland) were incredibly impressive, for a budget of just over $8 Million Dollars I really take my hat off to the Art Department but overall the entire movie was visually stunning.
The story itself is one that I had never heard of and a quick gauge between my family and friends they hadn’t either I’m surprised a true story like this has been kept fairly quiet all this time, considering what the tunnelers achieved and the amount of Germans that they killed. What stood out about this story to me was the fact it wasn’t just about the war, but it showed the human side of a terrible situation. Throughout the film you see short flashbacks to before Woodward hit the frontlines, you can see his hesitation in joining the army and what event eventually made him join. Even once he gets to the front his crew of tunnelers all have a story and you can see the bond that these guys made with each other.
I was trying to think of the negatives about this film, and I can’t even think of anything major, even the score to the film is great. The only downfall I could possibly say was that in some instances they had to use CGI and in some cases it personally didn’t look great, but lucky for us it was only very small parts of the film.
This movie hits Australian cinemas just before Anzac Day.. 15th April. This is truly an amazing piece of Australian War History and an even more amazing Film.
I give this film 4 out of 5.