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Australia 1990
Directed by
Stephen Wallace
108 minutes
Rated M

4 stars

Blood Oath

Bryan Brown, veteran of war-themed films. Breaker Morant (1980) and Far East (1982) is in familiar terrain in this story of a war crimes trial in Ambon, then still part of Dutch East Indies, shortly after the close of WWII.

In n a typically dynamic performance, Brown moves to the other side of the court from his Boer War character in Breaker Morant as he plays the prosecutor of a group of Japanese involved in the execution of over 300 Australian POWs. Based on record of the actual trial it is both a gripping courtroom drama that in the tradition seesaws between triumph and disaster until the final resolution and is a valuable reminder of Australia's often forgotten heroes.

The screenplay by Denis Whitburn and Brian A. Williams, whose father was the model for Brown's character, skillfully encompasses both the details of the trial and the broader issues involved, such as the cultural differences and the post-war American involvement in the region (an impressively articulate confrontation between Brown's Captain Cooper and the American "observer"). John Clarke, who appears as the rather stereotypical foreign correspondent apparently contributed quite a bit to the script during shooting and is credited as script editor.

Stylistically the film is closer to the clutter of Far East than the spareness of Breaker Morant and occasionally becomes slightly awkward (mainly in dealing with the psychological distress of Private Fenton, played byJohn Polson), but in general, a difficult, complex subject is handled well.




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