Based on a true story Breaker Morant - directed by Bruce Beresford - is about three soldiers who are being court-martialed for misconduct in the Boar War in South Africa in the early 1900's. The circumstances of the case are that the commander Harry [horse breaker] Morant (Edward Woodward) avenged the death of his comrades by executing Boer prisoners. The other two soldiers (played by Bryan Brown and Lewis Fitz-Gerald) are charged with killing a missionary and another unarmed man.
The film primarily takes place in the court room where a first time defence attorney Major Thomas (Jack Thompson) puts together a case for the week long trial.
With flashbacks and testimony by various witnesses the film unfolds to present a complex and interesting case. The most notable thing about the case is that although the British Army is covering up their own war crimes the men are not particularly being tried on trumped up or absurd charges such as the soldiers in Paths of Glory - who are completely innocent.
While it is true that the British kangaroo court wants to set an example with the Australian men and with Morant - who clearly acted out of anger - it is also true that they have committed an international war crime.
The greatness of Breaker Morant lies primarliy with the script which is direct and true. But too the richness of the characters and the circumstances that come about in time of war provides much to think about - especially in our own times. Harry Morant is a poet who has become caught up in the war. The other two men are equally fine men who did the wrong thing for what in their mind was the right reasons.
All the performances are strong with Woodward being particularly powerful. The direction by Bruce Beresford is tight and the script and editing make the film gripping from start to finish.