DRAMA; 2hr 2min
STARRING: Brendan Cowell, Steve Le Marquand, Gyton Grantley
Down under: Cowell
In 1916, a platoon of Australian miners is shipped to the Western Front to tunnel under German lines and put an end to the World War I impasse. The tunnels are a claustrophobe’s nemesis, reducing the men to a scurrying crouch. Mining engineer Oliver Woodward (Cowell), now a newly minted lieutenant after two weeks’ military training, finds subterranean burrows “snug.” Regardless, these passages are a potential death trap. Above ground, the combat zone is an alien soup of mud and rubble. If this is hell, then Belgium’s Hill 60, to which the gutsy little company is transferred with orders to defend its tunnels before detonating a massive explosion, is its lowest circle.
Taken from history, Beneath Hill 60 is peculiarly Australian in its casual heroism and universal in its focus on the random cruelty of war. Cowell leads the charge with Everybloke empathy in a Jeremy Sims–directed production that nails the blood and sweat of combat while evoking none of the tears. The terrible rigour is there, God knows; ditto the matey back and forth. But the only thing that moves here is the earth.