The film that gave director Bruce Beresford international recognition, Breaker Morant is one of the most acclaimed films ever to come out of Australia. A blunt, unsentimental account of one of the occasions on which Britain used and abused its Australian soldiers, it brilliantly depicts the betrayal, rage, and hypocrisy that characterized both the soldiers' trial and the nature of Australian-British military relations. To that end, Breaker works as a kind of belated expose; like Gallipoli a year later, it brought decades-old wrongdoings to light for the benefit of a modern audience. Thanks to Beresford's excellent direction, however, the film avoids the trap of self-righteous moralizing that often accompanies such biased storytelling. In fact, as rooted as it is in the tradition of military drama, Breaker Morant is as much a compelling character study. What really grabs the viewer is not so much the injustice at hand -- that's a given -- as the ways it is dealt with by the men upon whom it is inflicted. As the titular Morant, Edward Woodward displays both dignity and soft-spoken rage, while Bryan Brown communicates hot-tempered defiance as Handcock and Lewis Fitz-Gerald is terrifically naive as Witten, the youngest of the three court-martialed men. Jack Thompson is also memorable as the country lawyer who defends the men. These actors' performances are what make the film so affecting, giving the story both humanity and terrible sadness. Unlike the injustice portrayed in Breaker Morant, the sympathy we feel for its victims is not a given; instead, it is earned.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review