A comment on my post Australian War Movies: A List put me in the mood to watch the Australian film The Odd Angry Shot. The topic is quite unique as for once it doesn’t show Australians during WWI or WWII but Australians in Vietnam. The movie came with such high praise that I was really looking forward to it. However, before watching it, I had a look at Gary Freitas book on war movies and the movie had a rating of 1.5/5. I cannot remember having ever seen such a discrepancy between someone’s recommendation and Freitas’ assessment and was a bit puzzled and keen to find out for myself. The solution to the riddle is, in my opinion, that if you have the wrong expectations you might not like it but if you know what to expect chances are high you will.
The Odd Angry Shot tells the story of a group of Australian SAS soldiers who do a 12 month tour in Vietnam. Long stretches of boredom are broken up by recon and other missions during which there are casualties, some men are severely, others fatally wounded. During the periods in which there isn’t a lot to do, the men drink A LOT of beer, play games, tease each other. It’s an atmosphere of mateship and camaraderie and to watch them is nothing if not funny. Story-wise that’s it.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a war movie done like this and I can understand that if you think you are going to watch an intense war movie like Hamburger Hill or Platoon you will be very disappointed but that’s because you’re watching it with the wrong expectations. For me this is a war comedy, a movie that wants to show the spirit and the mateship in the Australian troops but still tries to show their sacrifice and achievements just without being graphic or gory. Judging from the reviews of a lot of Australian vets who commented on this movie, this is exactly how the Australians experienced Vietnam. They emphasized that most of the time, they were sitting around, waiting, being debriefed but that intense combat was pretty rare. Most of the time they were sent to capture the one or the other informant. In order to keep their spirits high, they did drink a lot, and try to have fun. A way to cope with the horrors of war.
The only real problem I had was that I still have no clue why the Australians felt they had to be in Vietnam. We hear absolutely nothing about the war as such, only that the majority of the people “back home” were not keen on it.
If you want to watch a gritty and graphic war movie in the vein of Platoon, don’t watch it. If you are interested in Australia and Australian movies, why not? If you look for an enjoyable and entertaining movie, it’s a great choice too. It’s very funny, the characters are extremely likable and Graham Kennedy does a great job.
Here’s a short scene that captures the spirit very well.
Great Review 😉
I probably need to point out why there may be issues between reviews on this movie, especially for non-Australian reviewers. It basically stems from the fact that the Australian experience of the Vietnam War is not the same as the US experience. Most US people would not know this and sadly a lot of Australians do not know this due to the influx of post Vietnam movies and tv shows influencing popular opinion.
A long story somewhat shorter, and bare with me a little here, is that the Australian experince of Vietnam had very little to do with the wider US version of Vietnam. Australian troops have a long history of jungle warfare and counter insurgency operations built on experinces in New Gunea in WW2 and Malaya/Borneo from the 1950’s. They took these experiences into Vietnam and built on them. Infact, if I may digress a little here, Gen David Patraeus based his strategies he used successfully in Iraq on the British/Australian model of counter-insurgency warfare. While, in essence, the US doctrine was of massive and overwhelming firepower to drive up body counts and conducting battalion wide operations the Australian doctrine was smaller company sized operations that went out into the field for weeks at a time. It was a lower scale war with a higher operational tempo. Whils tlarge formations of US troops went out to stir up a fight, the Australian tactic was to flood the entire province with constant patrols in the enemies back yard and deny them access to the local villages for support and recruitment. A tactic that worked so well that by 1968 Australian troops were being used in other neioghbouring provinces to assist allied forces as VC and NVA troops found Phouc Tuy province a no-go zone for them.
This is what carries over to the movie and if you are not aware of the actual history you would sit back and say ‘this is a shit cheap movie. Where are the big battles, the firepower, the scale and size of the war??’. Apart from the Battles of Long Tan, FBS Coral and Balmoral, Bihn Ba – we never had those big battles you see in Platoon, Hamburger Hill and the like. That was not our experience. What you see in The Odd Angry Shot was the Australian experience. Long silent patrols by well disciplined and trained troops operating in their element. And ths movie is based on Australian SAS troops who are undoubtably some of the finest long range reconnasance troops in the world. As ISAF Commanders found out to their delight in Afghanistan
OK, history lesson over 😉 I hope it gives you a better understanding of the movie. I have deliberatly cut my usual spiel a lot shorter cause I know I tend to bore people 😉
Thanks that was very interesting. My only problem is that we as non-Australian watchers have to find that out for ourselves plus – the DVD covers shows carpet bombing and such things and generally presents the movie as Platoon like which of course makes one expect the wrong. The essential for me was that I wasn’t bored, I liked watching it and that’s not small thing as I’m turning off so many movies these days before even having watched the first half.
One thought I had was that the movie made it look as if they hadn’t been in the same ear but from what you describe, that is quite accurate. The same country, the same cause but an aboslutely different approach. Thanks for the recommendation.
In its defence, the DVD cover and media would have been made 30 years after the movie was released. I’d put the blame for that on whatever company released the DVD version. As I mentioned, most Australians don’t know that our war in Vietnam was far different from the US experience of the war. The Odd Angry Shot is the only movie I know of that shows this….sadly.
I’m sure about that but that’s just very misleading and if you’re i the mood for an action-driven war movie and expect one, you might feel let down. I thought it was interesting as it showed it the way t probably was and the dialogue is funny and the characters likable.
FYI The movie, “White Badge” (Hayan Chonjaeng), gives the Korean perspective and experience in the Vietnam War. Definitely not the American experience……
BTW How may American viewers see this movie? Not available on Netflix or Hulu, sadly.
That’s unfortunately always a problem with non-US productions.
Thanks a lot for the Korean recommendation. I’d be interested to watch that.