Breaker Morant

Drama1980 / War/Courtroom Drama / 107 minutes / English

Info

This true story is set in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Boers were Dutch colonialists and their descendants who were battling  the British for more control and influence in South Africa. Many Aussie soldiers volunteered to join the British in South Africa. In 1902, and approved by Lord Kitchener, three Aussie Lieutenants, Morant, Handcock, and Witton, were arrested and charged with murdering six Boer prisoners and a German missionary. The prisoners’ defense counsel was Major James Francis Thomas while Kitchener appointed Major Bolton to prosecute the case. In a flashback, Morant is driven to take revenge when the Boers murdered and mutilated his friend Captain Hunt.   One day, six Boers approach Fort Edward bearing white flags. Morant disarms them and together with a German missionary, has them shot. In the trial, Major Thomas defends the accused by stating they were following orders. Kitchener, fed up with Boer atrocities, had ordered to “Take no prisoners.”  The film brought worldwide attention to a very controversial case. Many Australians now believe that Morant, Handcock, and Witten were scapegoats and  the real villains were the high-ranking officers giving the orders.   

Cast
Edward Woodward (Lt. Harry “Breaker” Morant) / Bryan Brown (Lt. Peter Handcock) / Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Lt. George Ramsdale Witton) / Rod Mullinar (Maj. Charles Bolton) / Jack Thompson (Defense Counsel-Maj. James Francis Thomas) / Alan Cassell (Lord Kitchener)
Why Stream This Film?
Beresford never pretended for a moment that the defendants were innocent. He intended the film to “explore how atrocities during war can be committed by people who appear to be quite normal.” These are tragic events that happen in almost every war. It’s depicted brilliantly in Breaker Morant.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • Metacritic Score: 72
Accolades
  • Australian Film Institute Awards: Winner, Best Film; Best Direction (Bruce Beresford; Best Actor (Jack Thompson); Best Supporting Actor (Bryan Brown)
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens, Bruce Beresford)
  • Cannes Film Festival: Winner, Best Supporting Actor (Jack Thompson)
  • The film received a rare 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating

Now streaming on:

This remarkable, superbly mounted anti-war movie from Australia, dallies in none of the absurdities of similar themed material that tends to dress war as a surrealist horror. The film is heavy with period detail, well organized and powerfully, intelligently acted by the four leads. It remains one of the most telling and moving parables of war’s grand folly that cinema has ever given us.
Ian Nathan

EMPIRE

If great cinema can be defined as a collection of memorable moments, the veteran Australian director Bruce Beresford created an unforgettable one in his 1980 magnum opus, BREAKER MORANT. This Boer War courtroom drama has one of the all-time greatest final scenes.
Luke Buckmaster

The Guardian

Mr. Beresford’s direction is at first so crisp that BREAKER MORANT appears headed for a familiar dead end—the land of stiff salutes, twitching mustaches, barked commands and other staples of movies about the military. But by the time it plays out its hand, this film has become genuinely, surprisingly affecting. And unspeakably sad.
Janet Maslin

The New York Times

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