You look at the world’s history and at some point you think that all the stories that need to be told about war and the soldiers who’ve fought them have been. History says differently, and certainly from the perspective of director Kriv Stenders who returns with Danger Close, an eye-opening and dramatic tale about a company of soldiers on the edge of death amidst heavy firefighting, aiding the South Vietnamese against the Northern military in 1966.
Written by Stuart Beattie, Danger Close opens with a soaring view of the battlefield heavily fogged down as soliders tread a vast field for the film’s opening. The story sees Major Harry Smith (Travis Fimmel) and Sergeant Bob Buick (Luke Bracey) setting out with their men into the jungles of Long Tan in search of where a mortar attack was launched on their basecamp the evening prior. Having split into teams of three, Smith’s team suddenly finds itself under heavy fire from the North Vietnamese, ensuing an hours-long fight for survival.
The fighting is fierce and carries on through heavy rain as the attack increases, and the soldiers under Smith’s and Buick’s watch are forced to hunker fight right down to their very last breath. Battling sniper bullets, limited ammunition, heavy rain, inner-unit politics with top brass and ultimately each other, what remains to be seen, centrally, is if whether or not Smith and the men of the eleventh unit can find the courage and endurance they need to keep morale up and give each other a fighting chance.
The film details that most of the soldiers are conscripts whose average age are of around twenty years and many of whom have never seen combat. Several character moments speak to this quite firmly in the first leg of the film, firstly with Smith, who seems wound up and frustrated with the lack of discipline and morale in the company, so much so that at one point he sets out to ask Brigadier Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) for a transfer. Second-lieutenant Gordon Sharp and Private Paul Large (Daniel Webber) both manage to get on Smith’s bad side which ultimately coagulates with issues of trust by halfway into the film.
The gun battles are some of the most explosive you’ll ever see. Only one shot sees some of the red stuff hitting the lens at one point while you’re completely left on the edge of your seat throughout the action. Next to the film’s solid cinematography and acting, a proper sound system further guarantees you’re immediately pulled into the fight as bullets whiz by just inches away from heads as the men are forced to duck down, shoot and work as a team with their auxilary unit miles away providing as much cover as possible.
Much of the men are picked off one-by-one between scenes as the historical citations of the film note that up to eighteen men died, and assuredly at least a few of these are characters you’ll at care about at sooner or later. At one point, Smith is forced to make the ultimate choice, one that completely seizes his character in what’s easily the most pivotal development of the film, and it sets up an even more compelling and suspenseful story point.
Danger Close brings you about as close as it can to the turmoil and violence of war, and it does so with a formidable cast of actors led by Fimmel, and amply supported by Bracey, Webber and Roxburgh among others. Stenders packages a quality production in Danger Close aimed at telling a wholly worthwhile story that paints a grisly, introspective picture of the kind of heroism, resilience, steadfastiness and sacrifice it takes to not only fight war, but to make significant and often damming and hard choices along the way whilst sticking together no matter what.
When the chips were down, all they had was each other. That is the story of Danger Close, and Stenders tells it with sheer excellence.