Kokoda: 39th Battalion

Kokoda: 39th Battalion


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

Australian cinema seems to be going from strength to strength and is finally stepping up to challenge Hollywood with its own brand of storytelling. Kokoda: 39th Battalion is a low-budget tale of a motley crew bunch of soldiers not at all ready for war taking on Japanese forces on the Kokoda trail in New Guinea during World War II. This movie proves that if you have a good story, regardless of budget, you can strike a cord with an audience and here Kokoda shows how war really is, but instead of bombs and bullets we see how it affects the ones involved in it, the people.

The 39th Battalion are the only troops available to try to stop the Japanese invading, ill-equipped with little or now experience they are completely out of their depth what unfolds is a display of courage, endurance and mate ship as the battalion strives to survive.

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Writer-Director Alister Grierson never lets budget restrictions get in the way of making this film and in certain ways his limitations inspire him to be more creative. One clever trick is to have the Japanese appear almost like silent assassins who you never really see fully. They creep around the jungle like predators and it's incredibly effective film-making - from certain angles they appear to be mysterious, amping up the tension as the battalion come under treat from an almost impenetrable invasion.

One slight criticism would be the lack of character development but the performances are very strong from a cast of “almost-known” Australian actors. Praise must go out to Steve Le Marquand, Jack Finsterer and Travis McMahon who are clear standouts but also look out for a moving performance from Tom Budge as Johnno, a young man who struggles to come to terms with the atrocities that he witnesses.

When the action does take place it's frenetic, real, direct and to the point and doesn't involve showy tracking shots that follow bombs to their targets a la Michael Bay. Biting and gripping Grierson doesn't skimp on the gore and displays war how it really is, grimy, gritty and extremely bloody. He's aptly aided by Jules O'Loughlin's cinematography which is haunting and captures the dense jungle surroundings beautifully.

Kokoda is a movie that highlights the horrific nature of war and is a powerful and demanding watch. The film is by no means a masterpiece which some critics have described it as but for a low-budget Australian movie it's enjoyable enough.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2008
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Kokoda: 39th Battalion packshot
Australian forces clash with the Japanese during the Second World War.
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Director: Alister Grierson

Writer: Alister Grierson and John Lonie

Starring: Jack Finsterer, Travis McMahon, Simon Stone, Luke Ford; Tom Budge, Steve Le Marquand

Year: 2006

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia


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