Beneath Hill 60
(M) Paramount DVD/BD
More than 90 years it has taken for a remarkable true story of Australian bravery and ingenuity in World War I to find its way on to our screens.
In 1918, led by Queensland mining engineer turned reluctant captain Oliver Woodward (played by Brendan Cowell), the soldiers of the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company dug under enemy lines to plant explosives beneath the German army on the Western Front.
While these diggers looked to gain the high ground by taking the low, the opposing force took similar measures, which director Jeremy Sims depicts in tense, claustrophobic scenes of underground brinkmanship.
Without hitting the heights of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, Beneath Hill 60 is another solid Australian war film dedicated to mateship, courage, “suicide” missions and those who risk their lives while following orders given by superiors.
Focusing on personal politics rather than bombarding us with anti-war tirades, Sims and screenwriter David Roach put us in the trenches with Woodward’s men; the dirty manoeuvres and subterranean sequences being effective salutes to historic efforts.
Eroding tension and interest are the slow flashbacks to Woodward’s life, just before he enlisted. His relationship with a teenage sweetheart is particularly pointless in the scheme of a reverent tribute to what men did in the dangerous theatre of war.