TRAILER: Kokoda 39th Battalion – Australian War Movie

War drama inspired by a true story. A small platoon of reservist Australian soldiers have been sent on an advanced patrol up the Kokoda trail – a critical supply line that separates Australia from full-blown invasion. After sustained bombardment from the Japanese, the men are cut off from their supply lines. Isolated in the jungle behind enemy lines, they must make their way back through the most unforgiving terrain on earth to reunite with the main body of Australian troops. After three days without food or sleep, carrying their wounded and suffering the horrifying effects of dysentery and malaria, they emerge from the jungle exhausted to the point of collapse. But on learning that Isurava is about to fall they pick themselves up and rejoin the battle.

In 1942, with the fall of Singapore, Australia lost nearly an entire division captured. The rest of Australia’s professional military force – the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) were still in the Middle East fighting the Axis. Australia then only had available conscripts who were considered unfit for combat duties. These were known as ‘chocos’ – it was believed that they would ‘melt’ away in the heat of battle. The chocos had been kept doing menial tasks such as working at unloading cargo.

Given the circumstances that these men were the only ones immediately available to defend New Guinea, they were rushed northwards with minimal, or no, combat training. From Port Moresby, they were sent over the torturous Owen Stanley Range along the only track – the Kokoda Track till they came in contact with Imperial Japanese forces coming along the track from the other direction.

The story of Kokoda is of men from one of these units, under-trained, under-provisioned sent to face battle-hardened Japanese soldiers in a desperate effort to save Australia.

REVIEW (Thanks to Dash22 on Imdb) There is a certain amount of trepidation in approaching a war film in the current climate of anti-war sentiment. Can you make it objective and avoid the over-sentimental patriotism of so many American entries in this genre? The makers of Kokoda seem to have thought long and hard about this.

The moment in history depicted in this film is the invasion by the Japanese into New Guinea in World War 2. A situation that directly threatened Australia as most of the Allied forces were consumed with fighting their own battles many thousands of miles away.

For Australia it was a matter of going to this hostile environment to repel the enemy advance or watch them invade the homeland. Many volunteer troups were enlisted (known as “chocco’s”) to supplement the regular army. They were under-trained and poorly equipped for this battlefront.

We are shown that men may be drawn to war for the right reasons but when confronted with the prospect of death then the basic human instincts of survival take over. Would you just look after yourself or help your comrades?

First time director Alister Grierson and co-writer John Lonie wisely decided to take a small incident to humanise the situation rather than try for an historical docu-drama. The result is a tense, superbly acted and directed 90 minutes that never loses its grip.

Stunning cinematography highlights the beauty of the rainforest canopy against the human horrors unfolding below.

This would be a great film in any year. The fact that is has been put together by a first time director on a low budget with a mainly unknown cast (all performances are riveting) makes this a major achievement.

You can buy this movie on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US)