The War Engineer
Based upon real events I find myself strangely conflicted by "Zulu", one of those must watch movies for anyone who is serious about movies. Now on one hand "Zulu" is amazing, it is well acted, tense and visually spectacular especially when seen on the largest screen you can find. And the actual true story on which it is based is in fact amazing to with the story of a small group of men holding out against thousands of Zulu warriors. But whilst I would never say that "Zulu" is boring it does feel like it has been stretched out to 138 minutes and in places drags a little.
Sent to a small missionary, depot in Natal, engineer Lt. John Chard (Stanley Baker - The Guns of Navarone) is overseeing the construction of a bridge when news reaches him that over 1200 soldiers have been slaughtered by Zulu warriors who will be coming their way. Returning to the depot Chard and Lt. Gonville Bromhead (Michael Caine - Inception) disagree over what they should do especially as there are not many of them with some bed ridden with injures. Claiming seniority having got his commission a few months earlier Chard insists they stay and prepare for battle despite the protestations of Reverend Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter Margareta (Ulla Jacobsson) who insist they leave and take the injured with them. But soon it becomes apparent that they have no choice as they are surrounded by thousands of Zulu warriors and survival seems unlikely.
There is no denying that the Battle of Rorke's Drift on which "Zulu" is based is a powerful storyline full of bravery in the face of death. And to be honest director Cy Endfield who produced the movie with star Stanley Baker have done a fantastic job of retelling the story. There is drama, clashes in personalities, individual characters and impressive battles as well which all look great when watched on a big screen. But for all which is great about "Zulu" there are times where it feels like it is drawing things about and whilst not a bum numbingly long movie at 138 minutes does suffer from the occasional scene which feel inflated with nothing to say.
Despite this "Zulu" is a must watch movie for those who love films and it is a movie which begs to be watched on the biggest screen you can. Shot on location in South Africa the backdrop and the blue sky play a huge part in why the movie is impressive and you can only get to feel that when seen on a big screen. The location also plays a huge part in getting across the situation these soldiers found themselves in, surrounded on all sides by Zulu warriors who when you see lined up across the top of the hills make a fearsome sight. It's because of this, because you can comprehend the size of the trouble these soldiers found themselves in as they were vastly outnumbered that the tension comes so easy, especially during the final scenes.
But it is not just the location which makes "Zulu" so impressive and cinematographer Stephen Dade has not only managed to capture the scale but also the detail when it comes to the action. Now there are moments in the action when "Zulu" shows its age with some dodgy effects using prop spears which when combined with some overly dramatic deaths do spoil things slightly. But you get a real sense of the epic battles which occurred as these men lead by Chard were outnumbered but not out foxed.
Plus there is the acting and whilst "Zulu" is a movie of many characters with everyone doing a nice job of playing even the smallest of parts it is also a movie about two men Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. Now Michael Caine had been knocking about in movies and on TV for over a decade but "Zulu" was the movie which made him a star and what a great job he does of playing Bromhead, arrogant and snobbish but never once a caricature. Baker who was already a star delivers the sort of solid characterisation that he was known for making Chard a very real person who whilst strong was not perfect and had flaws like everyone.
What this all boils down to is that "Zulu" is a great movie, it looks amazing and is entertaining from start to finish. The only issue I have is at times it feels scenes are drawn out in the desire to make them feel more than they need to be.