A beautifully produced feature-length documentary that is both epic and intimate, Gallipoli dramatizes the motivations, tactics and sacrifices which defined one of the most consequential battles of World War I.
In 1915, along the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire, British and French military forces set out to overtake an essential sea route from the Turks. It was a more challenging proposition than they had ever imagined. At first, they believed they could intimidate the Turks into surrendering through the sheer threat of their impressive fleet of war ships. When their opponent responded with undeterred aggression, Allied forces then moved the battle on land, and recruited the assistance of Australian and New Zealand forces who had recently undergone training in Egypt. Ultimately, after the gunfire had settled and close to a half a million soldiers lay dead, the Turks proved victorious in their defensive campaign.
The film contains valuable insights from a panel of noted historians, but it really thrives on the personal stories of those who served on the frontlines. Their perspectives are culled from a series of diary entries, and the profoundly personal letters they sent home to their wives, family members and other loved ones. They're brought to life by a voice cast of noted character actors including Jeremy irons and Sam Neil.
We learn about the early lives of each soldier profiled in the film. The regiment consisted of soldiers from every walk of life - from starving artists to prominent figures in high society - but they were all united in their deep sense of patriotism and duty. In hearing their recollections, we understand how their mission to defeat the Turks was thwarted by poor planning and a severe underestimation of their enemy's resolve and resourcefulness. Each wave of the battle is narrated in painstaking detail, and we're made to feel every setback, defeat and loss of life.
From the stunningly realized re-enactments to the powerfully dramatic musical score, the film's production values are beyond reproach. Gallipoli places the viewer on the battlefield, provokes enormous empathy for those who served, and makes the horrors of war vivid and palpable.