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He is one of today's hottest hunks and will star in the holiday season's biggest release (What Women Want), but there is one Mel Gibson movie you probably missed along the way.
Back in 1981, Gibson starred as Frank, an Aussie rebel pursuing a joyful life on the homefront during World War I. Not one for sentimentality or nationalistic pride, Frank doesn't want to follow his buddies, who are itching to join the army and battle the Turks in 1915. He doesn't see the usefulness of fighting someone else's war (the Australians are dedicated to defending British interests). Along the way, he meets Archie (Mark Lee).
Archie is a runner, maybe one of the best that the country has ever seen. He trains with his uncle and strives to go to the Olympics, but the war is growing in importance. Archie feels a patriotic calling to join the army, but he is too young, and his family opposes it. Frank, moved by Archie's honest passion, decides to help him sneak into the army, and, along the way, must decide if he wants to join the fight.
Will Frank join the army? Will Archie get in?
Gallipoli is often referred to as "The Australian Alamo" and plays a huge role in the film. Viewed by the British as a key peninsula between Asia Minor and Europe during World War I, it was Australian troops who led the bloody ground battle against the German-allied Turks, while the British attempted to attack from the sea. Unfortunately, the British and Australians suffered from ill-fated attack plans, mistimed troop movements and serious opposition from the Turks, which led to the death of many ANZAC(Australian New Zealand Army Corps) troops.
However, the film Gallipoli is about friendship and honor. Mel Gibson, won the best actor award from the Australian Film Institute for his role, is able to embody the indecision young men face when war raises its ugly head. His character is driven by self-interest, but he feels terrible pangs of conscience when his friends join the war. He wants to defend them, and certainly doesn't want to be viewed as a coward or disloyal to his country. Eventually, it is a different loyalty that causes him to make his ultimate decision. It is a great early performance from a man who didn't get his due until 1994's Braveheart. He leaves the stud image at home, and becomes a complex, likable character.
Of course, Gallipoli is also a mature look at the decisions we make and the battles we fight. Throughout the film, we learn that the Aussies are not faring well in Gallipoli, yet, many young men choose to fight a battle that cannot be won. What drives them? The same thing that drives most us - a need to try, a need to defend something greater than ourselves, and a desire to do what's right. In the end, that's why Gallipoli is a winner.
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Peter Weir and David Williamson
Mel Gibson .. Frank Dunne
Mark Lee . Archie
Bill Kerr ... Uncle Jack
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