Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
Jacob Richardson | 29/07/2019
A visually exciting, dramatically serviceable Aussie war film.
In August 1966, Major Harry Smith (Travis Fimmel) and his right hand men Sergeant Bob Buick (Luke Bracey) and Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Kirby (Alexander England) lead a group of relatively green conscripts against a North Vietnamese force. Fighting amongst a rubber plantation called Long Tan, their 108 young and inexperienced soldiers hold of 2500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.
Kriv Stenders branches out from his previous comedic and low-budget drama pieces to deliver an action packed spectacle in this Australian war movie. In many respects, that transition seems smooth. In particular, Danger Close nails the visuals, with some great editing and beautiful cinematography. Whether it’s innovative tracking shots following artillery shells or silhouetted soldiers against yellow and green smokebomb backdrops, the film consistently finds ways to convince you it’s a Hollywood blockbuster.
The acting isn’t always great, nor is the script. Early scenes fail to generate much drama or tension, and that is partly down to the lead performance from Travis Fimmel, who staggers around like a drunk/high model for most of the film. Luke Bracey starts weak, but settles into a good groove early and delivers a strong performance when his company is pinned down. The most compelling performance, however, is from Daniel Webber, who really makes us care for his character by the end.
The other major problem is in the exploration of war. While Danger Close is undoubtedly an anti-war film, one wishes it spent a little more time exploring the perspective of the Vietnamese. At times, it can feel almost jingoistic, although never agressively or purposely so. Stenders and the rest of the creative team seem, instead, to demonise the enemy instead of humanising them, which feels like a real shame in 2019.
Not an instant classic by any stretch of the imagination, but for those who stick with it you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by this Australian war film.