Beneath Hill 60: Movie Review
Beneath Hill 60
Cast: Brendan Cowell, Harrison Gilbertson
Director: Jeremy Sims
There's nothing worse than imagining the hell on earth that is war.
Beneath Hill 60 is the latest recreation of World War I's horrors and is
based on the true story of Aussie miner Oliver Woodward (an outstandingly
compassionate turn from Brendan Cowell) and his part in the war effort in
After initially being held back from the war to help mine for munitions
supplies, Woodward joins the Western Front and with a successful attempt at
removing an Allied threat, he and his team are pushed up the line to try and
help them take Hill 60 - by working underground.
But the Germans are also keen to ensure that the famous Hill 60 doesn't fall,
thus setting up a game of cat and mouse.
Beneath Hill 60 is a claustrophobic, grimy affair - as you'd expect from a
film about mining and the first World War. The recreation of the trenches and
the daily horrors only serve to make me appreciate how much was given at the
time by those who fought.
Woodward's story at the western front is interspersed with flashbacks to his
time in his homeland - and the burgeoning relationship he forms with the
daughter of a neighbouring family. Sadly some of these scenes don't quite give
the action in the trenches the emotional depth it needs. But there's still
an everyman appeal to Woodward and his compadres.
When the action (such as it is) cuts back to the trenches, there's plenty of
nail-biting moments to be had - from scenes of men getting lost in No Man's Land
to German miners getting ever closer to discovering what Woodward and his men
are up to. Because of the quiet character moments of this film, when the shocks
come, some of them are real surprises. Much like the atmosphere at the time,
there is an inevitability that something will happen and when it does, you can
guarantee you'll be jumping out of your seat.
Brendan Cowell is mightily impressive as the lead character - with a
laid-back humour and an Aussie battler attitude. His quiet steely determination
anchors the whole picture in heart and humanity - the only minor disappointment
is the relative ease in which he makes a major sacrifice at the end of the film
- the lack of emotional pay-off is disappointing (although perhaps inevitable
given the nature of the film).
Beneath Hill 60 is one of the better war films I've seen. It stays away from
the grandiose, prolonged war scenes of some of its bedfellows and sticks more to
a story painted on an intimate canvas, so is likely to resonate with many long
after the very impressive and moving credits have finished.