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It was not long ago that I watched the excellent Australian film "Kokoda 39th Batallion", which brought deserved attention to the less well known conflict in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War. They have done it again with "Beneath Hill 60", which is the true story of the 1st Australian tunnellers, with particular emphasis on their involvement in the Battle of Messines during World War One. It was a story that was truly crying out to be told. The screenplay for the film was adapted from the war diaries of Captain Oliver Woodward who served with the tunnellers. A film about the role played by the tunnellers during the Great War has been long overdue. The novel "Birdsong" brought home the horrors of this type of war to me. Men toiling beneath the earth to set off huge mines beneath enemy positions. Then there were counter mines from the enemy, which sometimes ended in brutal hand to hand combat where men hacked at each other with spades.

The film captures the awful realities of the war under the ground, whilst interweaving flashbacks of the captains romance back home. Whilst I don't pretend to be an expert, the action seems very authentic, with detail such as the listening posts and the reference to digging down to the blue clay to avoid water flooding. The conditions and scenes of World War One action around the Ypres salient are very convincing. I have visited the Flanders field museum in Ypres and the film certainly looked like many of the photos I saw there. It is remarkable to think all this was done in Australia. Prior to the commencement of the Messines Battle, 19 mines were set off simultaneously, in the greatest man made explosion the world had ever witnessed. It was heard in London and Dublin, and changed the geography of the area. An estimated 10,000 German soldiers were killed. It was not until testing the atomic bomb in 1945 that there was a larger explosion. Sadly although the allies gained valuable ground initially it was retaken by the Germans in a matter of months, and the bloody stalemate continued.

The acting is solid by all the cast, and star Brendan Cowell is particularly effective as Woodward. Jeremy Sim's has directed this large production with an impressively sure hand. It is always difficult to bring something new to the canon of World War One movies that has not already been done, and usually done well by someone, but Sim's and his crew have managed this. There might be an even more definitive film to be made about the tunnellers, but for the time being this will more than suffice. It is an entertaining and informative film, that casts light on a lesser known chapter of the Great War. Well worth watching.
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on 13 October 2010
A good honest film about the British Empire forces in the First World War, albeit from an Australian perspective. That said there is not modern stereotypical characterisations, the British soldiers are depicted fairly and there is no modern anti-British sentiment in this. This is just a good honest story about soldiers and the travails that they faced whilst serving on the Western Front. The British film industry could learn a lot from this production, the research on the Uniforms and equipment is first rate and the depictions of the social mores of the time are excellent too. It tells good story of men at war without a ham fisted attempt at making a point. I recommend this to everyone interested in the Great War.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 9 November 2010
I would just like to thank the other positive reviewers on this page as it was due to them that I bought this DVD. It is based on the book of the same name and I intend to get that next. This film is based on the exploits of a group of volunteer Australian miners who were employed during WW 1 to undermine and then blow up enemy German positions. This is part of their truly monumentally brave story.

The film is so authentic in its presentation of the terrible conditions endured by all sides at the front and is more astonishing as it was filmed in Australia and funded by inter alia The Australian Film Commission. The acting is spot on, the cinematography though not beautiful does exactly what you would want in terms of conveying the filth and the sense of claustrophobia when below ground. They do not shy away from the gruesome detail and Alan Dukes and Brendan Cowell are both excellent leads.

That said there is not one lack lustre performance and every one comes across as believable. The story is told with a modicum of flash backs but this is so well balanced that it helps the narrative flow. For fans of 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks, this film will add to the plot. For fans of history it also tells a part of the amazing Allied attack on the Messine Ridge. This really is a great film that seemed to just fly by (only one cup of tea - always a good sign)you will not be sorry for the purchase
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on 2 September 2010
Released for anzac day in Australia this film is based on a true story and is a gripping tale where you get to know the ins and out of every character. It sees both points of view from either side which is a nice touch and also the effects after its over. Highly watchable with exciting scenes and great attention to detail but amazingly contains humerous moments aswell.
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on 2 November 2010
Yes - I enjoyed this film. It's well made: well acted, nicely produced and presenting a believable (and as far as I can tell, fairly accurate) view of the first world war. Indeed, both the wider subject matter (WW1) and narrower story (the mining and tunnel war) are not generally well served by the movie industry and it's great to see a quality attempt to bring it into the light of the 21st century.

However, something about it just didn't click for me. The story should be moving, the plot nail-biting, the ending poignant. All the elements are there to enable that, but somehow it failed to hit those marks. I think it may be that it slipped too easily into war movie cliche: the doughty Diggers, the arrogant, crusty English General, the new lieutenant winning the respect of the hostile Corporal, the girl back home, the race against time and so-on. I'm not suggesting that these are invalid just because they are cliches but you can't help sighing a little cynically when the soldier passes around a photo of his best girl for his comrades to admire.

I think that another of the film's weaknesses was that, in a movie about digging tunnels, it missed an opportunity to crush the audience beneath an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia. Certainly it provides a great rendition of the filth and squalour of the trench war, but so much of the action takes place above ground (i.e. outside of the tunnels themselves) that the key element of the story (what took place beneath Hill 60) is lost.

I really wanted to *love* this film. I'm afraid to say that I could only *like* it.
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on 10 November 2010
Like Tommy D who posted a review yesterday (9th Nov.), I have other reviewers (and Amazon's recommended lists) to thank for my purchase of this film. When the first review mentioned the film Kokoda - 39th Battalion, I was instantly interested, because I enjoyed that immensely. Birdsong is one of my top five favourite books too, so I was attracted to the idea of a film about sappers in WW1. Plus good films about the conflict are few and far between. There's the seminal anti-war film, All Quiet On The Western Front, based on Remarque's book, Gallipoli, and perhaps a handful of others. Hence the reason my antennae shoot up at the prospect of a good WW1 film.

I won't go into the plot - the blurb and other reviews do that in spades. What's important to me is that with the passage of time, and the deaths of all the suriviving veterans, I sadly feel that in no time at all, WW1 will be consigned to history. Fine films like this, which are realistic (in as much as we can know), while also managing to be gripping and moving will hopefully be one of the ways that the terrible conflict, and the ordinary men who served in it, will never be forgotten. The fact that this film is based on a real man, Captain Woodward, and his exploits, adds to its appeal even more.

(The two tiny spoilers were the poor music, and the shot of Australian mountains in the background of one scene - there are no mountains anywhere near Ypres as far as I know! Not enough to take away a star, however.)

Ben Kane, author of The Forgotten Legion.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 December 2012
This is an excellent Australian war movie, based on the real events, about the tunnelers - soldiers who waged a little known but extremely dangerous and deadly war under the trench lines during World War I.

This film tells mainly the story of one Australian tunneler unit, composed mostly of coal and copper miners, during their succesive missions on Western Front in 1916 and 1917, with the dramatic battle of Messines (7-14 June 1917) being the final fight. The main character is Lieutenant (later Captain) Oliver Woodward (Brendan Cowell), who actually really existed - this film is based on the written accounts of his actions which were conserved by his family.

The scenario is very strong and very dramatic. Fighting scenes are excellent. The conditions of life in the trenches during World War I are very skillfully recreated. Details of weapons and uniforms were very well respected. All actors performed very well and dialogs are good.

But the real strength of this film is the perfect control of the film by the director, who chose to show the "War to end all wars" by sticking to the facts and events and keeping drama and emotions at a reasonable level, and I believe this was a winning move. People certainly do not hide their feelings in this film and there is one scene with a shell shocked young soldier which is pretty intense, but the thing is never overdone. The language is occasionally very strong but here also director avoided the excess - as it is true that unlike Hollywood would like us to believe most people do NOT use the F-bomb in every sentence, even under stress... And I found that the tired and occasionally cynical stoicism of the "diggers" and "tommies" showed more about the horror of trenches in World War I than most of extraverted gesticulations and yellings.

A good idea was to alternate war scenes with occasional back flashes of Woodward's life in Australia before he joined in 1916 and especially his memories of the love of his life, Marjorie, who at 16 was still too young to be married when he went to war... Those memories of another life and their contrast with war in trenches are a very succesful thing.

I will not say much about the underground war and savage fights in the tunnels shown in this film to avoid spoilers, but this is a unique thing. I never saw before a war film dealing with this particular kind of warfare and this one immediately sets the standard to which any possible successors will be measured.

Another strong point is that even if one high ranking officer is shown as an arrogant and mostly incompetent jerk, as a whole this film does not criticize the army. Some characters which seem as snotty and unsufferable appear in a completely different light once shots are fired in anger and if generals and officers are ruthless, this is because they have no choice... The film shows that if war is mostly evil, it is not necessarily the case of people who wage it... And such a reasonable approach is a very rare and precious thing in modern cinema.

Bottom line, this is one of the best war films I ever saw and definitely the BEST war film I saw recently. Enjoy!
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on 14 December 2014
My husband loved this movie that he watched via Amazon Prime (for a fee). However, he was disappointed to discover that it is FREE to watch this internet flick *ahem* elsewhere.

Well produced, awesome special effects, historical facts OK. Although dedicated to Australian brothers in arms, more respect ought to have been paid to the UK miners of England and Wales.
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I am so happy with this film. It is probably the best war film set in the Great War, World War 1.

The story follows the Australian tunnelers responsible for mining under the German lines and blowing them to Kingdom come. Every detail is well done both big and small and you are rewarded with a true story and an interesting one to boot. The mining war under the trenches is well realised, with the Germans launching countermeasures and everyone trying to be silent since the other side is listening and here the two sides duel. The situation above ground it well done too, with life in the trenches all soaked in mud and sometimes blood.

There is also some time devoted to memories from back home and here it helps that the Aussies have added a bit of humour that makes it all worth while.

After watching a series of flawed war movies; 71 - Into the Fire [DVD] [2010], Axis Of War: The First Of August [DVD] [2008] & Axis Of War: My Long March [DVD] [2008] this film was a welcome change.

My best recommendations.
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on 17 December 2013
Definitely one of my top three war films. Have shown it to my GCSE students for the last few years now and every one of them loved it. I disagree with the comments about flashbacks, they help remind us that this is based on a true story with real people and understand their motives for going to war. Highly recommended.
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