‘Danger Close’, directed by Kriv Stenders, is an extremely well-made movie about a relatively minor, but very contentious, Australian battle from the Vietnam War — the battle of Long Tan.

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Unfortunately, lượt thích many Australian war movies, it does it’s very best lớn maintain the ethos of the Anzac legend, albeit it does so at the expense of historical truth and military integrity.

I say relatively a minor battle because it was not on the scale of the battles fought by other Australian units at Fire support Bases Coral and Balmoral, or by US forces virtually on a weekly basis.

And I say contentious because it was a hollow ‘victory’ — a series of incompetent actions và incompetent leadership that resulted in the loss of 17 Australian infantrymen. Those aspects have always been glossed over by the military high command & armchair historians on the public purse which is prone lớn making ‘victories’ out of defeats khổng lồ placate anxious civilian populations.

Nevertheless, Danger Close is realism at its very best and a great credit to Kriv Stenders who has followed on from where Mel Gibson left off with Hacksaw Ridge. It is a movie that shows the savagery of jungle warfare in brutal detail, taking the viewer right into the killing field to experience the drama & traumas of infantry action.

The story involves Delta Company of the 6th Battalion, led by the hubristic Major Harry Smith (played more than capably by Travis Fimmel of Vikings fame.) Smith (known as ‘The Rat’ by his peers, though this is altered in Danger Close to lớn the more appealing ‘ratcatcher’) boasts that he is a superior leader of men who maintains that he has trained his Company khổng lồ elite SAS standard.

Interestingly though, we soon learn that Smith’s boast is somewhat hollow, because it becomes apparent that he has soldiers under his command who are hardly in elite class of warrior. They drink alcohol on picquet duty; are openly insubordinate; have accidental discharges (that go unpunished); a platoon commander (LT Gordon Sharp) who epitomises the larrikin leader who would rather play cards than go into battle; and a sergeant (Bob Buick, played adequately by Luke Bracey) who is not only insubordinate but a recognised bully whose men don’t trust him.

SGT Bob Buick, 1966But we soon learn that Smith too, is flawed. He not only comes into conflict with his superiors at battalion & Task Force level, demanding a transfer to a more robust unit, but physically assaults a subordinate, contrary khổng lồ accepted military practice. Surprisingly for a man who espouses military discipline và professionalism, Smith’s refusal khổng lồ obey orders to lớn break liên hệ with the enemy force when it becomes apparent his Company is in serious difficulty, amounted khổng lồ insubordination.

It is no wonder then that such an undisciplined ‘leader’ lượt thích Smith leads his company into a battle for survival when he gives permission lớn the suddenly zealous, but incompetent, platoon commander — LT Gordon Sharp — lớn pursue a fleeing enemy force, straight into an ambush.

a scene from Danger CloseThose matters aside, Danger Close is unique movie-making, but like in all movies, there are moments when one must suspend belief.

For instance, the moment when Major Smith gives a stirring King Henry V-like speech during an apparent lull in the rain and the battle, is incongruous & contrived. ‘Remember, you’re Delta company!’ he bellows, somewhat unconvincingly to his small headquarters group.

It is a cringe-worthy, unconvincing attempt at shoring up moral — if it really happened (and those who know Smith personally, doubt it).

And when the surviving members of the group who appear to be protecting Smith & the Company HQ all run out of their last bullet at precisely the same moment & take out bayonets (but fail khổng lồ attach them khổng lồ their weapons) is both silly & demonstrably inconsistent with Australian military tactics.

As too, the actions of a maverick soldier (Private Large) who goes AWOL from one platoon and manages to lớn find a way khổng lồ Smith’s position where they engage in doubtful banter about future wedding plans is improbable, given the grave predicament the Company was in. (One suspects this conversation, cliched và all, serves only to give Smith some measure of humanity).

That Harry Smith (pictured) was used as an ‘advisor’ on the movie will rankle many veterans who have personally researched the battle & not been taken in by the Smith hyperbole over the years. He is an unreliable source, keen to exaggerate the kích hoạt (and his own role in it), culminating in having him performing heroics at various points that are laughably untrue. The scene where he allegedly engages in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy soldier và kills him with a pistol shot to the head (which splatters him with the soldier’s blood) is a laughable plot development that other veterans will mock.

(Though one must remember that one of Smith’s boasts is that he once put an unarmed, wounded enemy out of his misery in a previous conflict — a precursor khổng lồ the actions of his sergeant Bob Buick who did the same thing the day after the battle of Long Tan.)

Why laugh? Because anecdotal evidence is that Smith was never at the heart of the battle, and is rumoured not lớn have even fired a shot in anger.

That he was eventually awarded a Star of Gallantry almost 50 years after the battle by badgering governments made an absolute farce of Australian military decorations, with all recipients under a cloud.

The role of Bob Buick (played by lượt thích Bracey) is excruciating knowing what we know about his role in the battle. He shares what may be construed as an almost homosexual relationship with Smith on-screen that might raise eyebrows, although they have remained close ever since, united against naysayers.

While Danger Close depicts Buick as a tough soldier who leads from the front, in reality Buick, like Smith, was also a blemished character. He is insubordinate when he challenges LT Sharp about the officer’s inaction to an earlier mortar attack, yet is depicted as a anh hùng who takes out a sản phẩm điện thoại enemy machine-gun singlehandedly. Not likely.

The integrity of the film (and indeed of the Anzac legend) takes a battering when Buick supposedly instructs his men khổng lồ retreat, & they vì chưng so in what seems lượt thích an orderly manner. In fact, Buick admits that he deserted his position and his men, including the wounded, và ran for his life — a fact attested to lớn by surviving member of his 11 Platoon.

One of them (PTE Jim Richmond) who was wounded badly và watched Buick bolt from the battlefield, followed by the remnants of his platoon, refuses to lớn even utter Buick’s name khổng lồ this day.

Although a mouthpiece for the battle in the decades that have elapsed, Buick’s role is somewhat diminished in Danger Close, & that is as it should be because he is a contentious character in the veteran community.

(In 2011, Buick boldly declared that he would ‘confront’ this tác giả at one of my tác giả talks about my memoir, The War Within — but brought along a dozen mates to support him if it got a bit rough.)

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This is most probably because his actions during and after the battle which includes claims that he murdered an unarmed, wounded enemy soldier, were never addressed in the movie, or in fact, by Major Smith or the high command, & have caused consternation with veterans and detracted from the 6th Battalion’s honour and reputation.

There is more irony in that despite Major Smith belief that his Delta Company is the battalion’s premier fighting unit, it is the arrival of Captain Charles Mollison’s Alpha Company on APCs that saved Delta company from certain annihilation.

That Mollison và Alpha Company receive little attention in Danger Close is disappointing.

Capt Charles Mollison, Commanding Officer of Alpha Company 6RARIn my opinion, given Smith’s ‘advisory’ capacity, he was unwilling lớn acknowledge Charles Mollison’s rescue of his men because it tarnished his own faulty leadership, và meant Mollison và his men would have received a giới thiệu of the military gallantry awards that Smith garnered for himself và his favourites.

The roles of Lieutenants Sabben và Kendall whose platoons played peripheral roles in the battle are somewhat understated despite both men receiving gallantry awards. So too, the role of Sgt Major Jock Kirby whose bravery was never questioned (there are those who suggest he should have been awarded a Victoria Cross) and that is a failure of the film.

To highlight a coward’s role, và understate a real nhân vật is lamentable.

As a veteran of the same war, with similar experiences khổng lồ those on show in Danger Close, including being wounded in action, I applaud the film, and like all those who watched it in the same theatre, was moved khổng lồ quiet reflection for quite a while afterwards.

I must say that I found it disappointing though that the film portrayed men who are now deceased, in an unfavourable light. I refer khổng lồ the Task Force commander Brigadier Jackson, the Battalion Commander, Townsend, & Lt Gordon Sharp. Dead men can’t defend themselves.

Ultimately, it is to lớn Major Harry Smith’s dishonour that he has brokered a version of history that best serves his own legacy, at the expense of his superiors and the historical truth.

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Nevertheless, as a veteran & avid movie-goer, I gave Danger Close 5 stars, and suggest it should be viewed by every veteran, and especially those who fought at the coalface.