These are the days and nights of fury and honor and courage and cowardice that an entire century of empire-making and film-making can never surpass!
Running Time: 138 minutes
UK Certificate: PG
Country: United Kingdom
Back at the height of the Sixties’ Cool Britannia came this unashamedly pro-Empire Boar War epic. It’s the kind of movie you couldn’t get away with making now (unless you are Ridley Scott making Black Hawk Down) but seen as a film of it’s time it’s a fantastic watch and brilliantly made.
Zulu tells the story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift – a British outpost in Southern Africa where a group of 140 British soldiers are surrounded by 4,000 of Zulu warriors and cut off from a retreat. The British fortify their simple compound and encounter wave after wave of attacks from an enemy with inferior weaponry but far superior numbers.
One of the assets of Cy Enfield’s movie is that it has a great bunch of characters to root for who represent a cross section of Victorian Britain. Leading the group are Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, played as posher than the Queen by an almost unrecognisable Michael Caine, and Lieutenant John Chard R.E. (Baker), the real man in charge. There’s also a sizeable Welsh contingent who add the comic touch, a convict (Booth) who you know will come good and a couple of youngsters to feel sorry for. Zulu needs this likeable band of characters with a spirit of self-preservation to shift the modern audiences’ allegiances because, watching this now, it is essentially an invading force mowing down thousands of locals in the name of an empire.
History aside, the story is a riveting watch because as well executed as the action is, there’s plenty of characterization and choice dialogue to pad out the story. A fairly large chunk of the film is give over to setting the scene, building the tension and outlining the relationships between the characters. This is all very important when the big battle comes as each death or close shave is a major event. Fantastic afternoon watching (and it will take all afternoon).
It's Got: Characters to care about, the perfect balance between action and story progression
It Needs: To be watched in the right frame of mind - Up the British Empre!
DVD Extras Commentary with a film historian and the second unit Director and two making of featurettes and a trailer - not too shabby,
An old school war epic that will be sure to entertain and have you rooting for the surrounded British troops as long as you ignore the total glorification of the Empire (the British one, not the one that struck back).