Gallipoli (1981)


Dir. Peter Weir, 1981

On his way to becoming Australia’s preeminent filmmaker, Peter Weir wrote and directed Gallipoli, the story of the most infamous battle ever fought by Australian forces. More than 1% of the young nation’s population died in the First World War, and over eight thousand of those died in vain trying to capture Gallipoli, Turkey’s gateway to the sea of Marmara.

Mark Lee and Mel Gibson play rival sprinters in the Western Australian hinterland who run away to join the ANZAC and fight in the Great War. While Lee is eager to fight for his country, Gibson is more cynical until rejoining his old railroad buddies. After walking to Perth then training and making trouble in Egypt, Gallipoli comes in full force.

Rather than make a non-threatening prestige film, Weir set Gallipoli apart by taking a very long time to get to the battle, and making the battle relentlessly bloody. It is this decision, along with Weir’s austere style and superb acting from Lee, Gibson, and all the supporting actors (like recently passed Aussie film regular Bill Hunter), that make Gallipoli stand the test of time. A