ATTACK FORCE Z
Australia, 1982, 93 minutes, Colour.
John Philip Law, Mel Gibson, Sam Neill, Chris Haywood, John Waters.
Directed by Tim Burstall.
Attack Force Z is a moderately entertaining, old-fashioned World War Two movie. It was intended to be more. The original director was Philip Noyce who wanted to make something of the issues of Australian involvement in the war in the Pacific and in Asia. However, he fell out with producer John Mc Callum and veteran director Tim Burstall came in to complete the film. With script changes, the film became a routine adventure.
The Taiwanese locations, however, are well used and the action sequences well staged. American actor John Philip Law was brought in for international appeal. But the Australian cast is of particular interest: Mel Gibson in a very early role, Sam Neill after moving from New Zealand and making My Brilliant Career, John Waters in a small role, and Chris Haywood.
The film came from the same company which made the more ambitious, though not particularly successful (except in Japan), Southern Cross, also known as The Highest Honour.
1 An interesting and entertaining war film? Quality? Its place in the tradition of '40s and '50s war adventures?
2. Taiwanese location photography, the atmosphere of Asia? The villages, the sea? Action sequences, special effects? Rousing musical score?
3. The focus on the Z Force? The reality of their contribution to the war? Missions? War heroism? The film as a tribute to them? The explanation of the mission, its dangers? Its contribution to the war? Japanese personnel, diplomacy? The proportion of the dangers to the goal of the mission? The portrayal of the characters - individually, as part of the group? Realistic?
4. The use of war stereotypes? Veitch and his being the hero, his Dutch background, his place within the group, interactions, heroism, skill in war, relationship with the villagers, the falling in love with the Chief's daughter?
Romance, heroism, self-sacrifice in death? Sparrer and his cheekiness, skill, work with explosives, cheerfulness, discuss ion about the issues, loyalty, his death? Costello and his contribution, manner, style, heroism, seeming coldness, self sacrifice? King and his contribution to the mission, his injury, his early death?
5. Kelly and Mel Gibson's style, command, dedication to the mission, single-mindedness, heroism, relationships with the men?
6. The relationship with the Japanese, the decisions for people safety, the question as to killing the Japanese, the siege?
7. Moral and tactical issues: the leaving of King to die, the proportion of getting the Japanese dignitary and the alternative with death in the village? Discussions, motivations, different viewpoints? Resolution?
8. The portrait of the villages, Japanese occupation, Japanese treatment, loyalties within the village, the role of authority, contribution to the dangers? The battle, so many deaths?
9. The death of Japanese? The impact for Kelly? The irony of the effort - with so little result?
10. The film's themes of war: the necessity of such strategies, the dangers, self-sacrifice?
11. The importance of films about Australians and their involvement in the war in Asia? Australian- Asian relationships? A memoir of this involvement in the '40s? Yet the touch of irony and futility?