Beneath Hill 60 Review by Sam

From the trailers I saw when viewing other films, and the TV-spots I saw when watching my favourite television shows at night, Beneath Hill 60 looked like it was going to be a complete revitalisation to Australian cinema.

Beneath Hill 60 Poster

I even went as far as to think it may be the new Gallipoli – an Australian classic that set a high benchmark for Australian cinema.

Gallipoli Poster

Beneath Hill 60 - The new Gallipoli?

Whilst technically this film was executed well, I felt there was a lack in a few other areas, prominently the acting and some of the script.

Firstly, the set-design and cinematography were great, and even resembled an American production – something that is rarely seen in Australian films. The sound-design and sound mixing were also up to very high standards, and created a great atmosphere for the film. Even the visual effects were of a high quality, which was great at portraying the intensities of what the Australian men went through beneath hill 60.

I want to specifically focus on the sound mixing used in the film for a moment, as it really was a highlight. There were many scenes where sound effects were put to use without visuals, as if they were happening off screen, and actors would react accordingly. One would seemingly say this was a result of a lower budget, but the effect that it provided was great – and I found it intriguing that it was highly believable.

The cast of Beneath Hill 60

The cast of Beneath Hill 60

Let me cover the elements of the film I disliked. First and foremost, a high portion of the acting – it was unbelievable, and I was completely aware that I was watching someone [at least try to] act – rather than being engrossed in the story and feeling as if the characters were real. I shouldn’t be so harsh; not all the acting was poor. Actually, all the performances by actors that weren’t Australian were great, and of high quality, and a majority of the acting that took place during the war was up to standards and believable. The scenes that I struggled with the most were the ones set before our protagonist, Oliver Woodward heads off to the tunnels in the war. In these scenes audiences got to see the poor performance of Brendan Cowell as well as the horribly over-acted part of Marjorie Waddell played by Bella Heathcote – a part that had me and my older brother laughing at times at how ridiculous it was.

One part that had me and my brother shocked and in horror was the scene in which Brendan Cowell’s character (who looks at least in his early 40’s in the film) says to Bella Heathcote’s character (who is written to be 16 years of age) – “Marjorie, I’m 10 years your senior.” What a shock this was to us! Had he said “Marjorie, I’m 25 years your senior,” that would have been much more acceptable. That was some poor casting if you ask me.

Brendan Cowell

Brendan Cowell in Beneath Hill 60

To me, I believe the film would have been a whole lot better had they not focused on Oliver Woodward’s earlier life before the war at all, and rather spent more time focusing on the Germans on the other side, or more time developing the characters so audiences had more of an emotional connection with them.

Whilst I’m on the topic of the scenes with the Germans, I would like to say that these were some of the best scenes in the film – the acting was by far the best, and the suspense was great. The only problem was that their scenes only entered about two thirds of the way into the film, and ended quite suddenly. Had they been included in a constant sub-plot from beginning to end, I believe it would have served the film extremely well.

Finally a comment on the films score; like the acting, the high points to the score were in the scenes at Gallipoli – timed well, provided great military atmosphere and suspenseful atmosphere when needed, and heightened the emotion incredibly. The score when the film was focusing on Woodward’s pre-war life was not so superior. There were some scenes that required music, yet none was to be heard, and some scenes where the music was timed in a way that it came out way too corny. For an Australian film, the score was done quite well, and was a nice addition, serving the Gallipoli scenes well. Yet, as all good things ‘supposedly’ come to an end, so does the well timed and appropriate score for the film.

Overall, whilst Australia has done reasonably well with Beneath Hill 60, it isn’t a masterpiece, and will most likely not go down as a classic piece of Australian cinema.

I give it 3 film reels.

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