Gallipoli - Special Collector's Edition
Sound: B- Extras: C+ Film: B+
The first time I encountered Gallipoli, Peter
Weir's sweeping 1981 war epic about Australia's role in World War I generally
and two runners who form a deep bond on the frontlines specifically, was during
my sophomore year history class in high school. The teacher fast-forwarded through some parts to keep it on time
with the class, but the editing didn't remove the harrowing power of the film.
When watching the film in that class, Gallipoli was
15 years old. Now, it's 25 years old
and none of its emotional oomph is lost.
Mel Gibson and Mark Lee star in the film as two champion
runners, Frank Dunne and Archy Hamilton, who go off to fight for Australia
under the promise of adventure, excitement, and the chance to make a difference
for the burgeoning nation. And they
find it as they travel the world, from their home to Egypt to, ultimately,
Gallipoli. But they also find the
horrific realities of bloody, meaningless trench warfare.
The power of the story lies in the human connections and
interactions director Weir forges between not just Frank and Archy but also the
other men in their unit. Weir is so
effective at creating a bond between viewer and character that the ending shot,
and what it means for everything we've seen up to that moment, is the visual
equivalent of a hydrogen bomb on viewer's senses. And that he lingers on that moment causes almost an overbearing
and overload on viewers' ability to remain unaffected by the story of these
men, this battle, and World War I.
Watching Gallipoli in high school had a profound impact -- an
almost malaise-inspiring one -- in which I was unable to watch war movies or
think about conflict the same way again.
Paramount, fittingly, revisited the film to give it a
Special Collector's Edition DVD treatment.
Unfortunately, it seems to be an opportunity squandered.
The film looks and sounds better than ever. Weir's expert direction and Russell Boyd's
cinematography is rendered beautifully with a crisp and clean image in the
anamorphic widescreen transfer.
Sonically, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix sounds better than any
other presentation up to now. The film
was not a multi-channel sound film in its original theatrical release, but
Where the disc lags, though, is on the extras side. There are two bonuses included, the original
theatrical trailer and "Entrenched: The Making of 'Gallipoli'"
six-part documentary. The documentary
is extraordinarily interesting from both a cinematic and historical
standpoint. The filmmakers, cast, and
crew, by virtue of all being Australian, know a great deal about Gallipoli and
the events and people surrounding it and it's importance to Australian
history. It also gets a lot of
different voices and perspectives on the film, including that of Mel Gibson,
and it creates a balanced, solid documentary on a film that surely deserves it.
But that's all that's here. Hardly a complement of extras befitting "Special Collector's
Edition" status. It would have
been nice to have a commentary or two and perhaps a more history-geared
documentary or two regarding the battle and Australia's role in World War I. They would've been especially welcome
considering that so little is known about the subject in the States, generally,
that the tagline for the movie was, "From a place you've never heard of,
comes a story you'll never forget."
The film certainly delivers on the latter half of the ad;
too bad this new DVD couldn't have changed the first part of it.
- Dante A.