Beneath Hill 60.
Based on the true experiences of a soldier who served underground, the film’s tempo suffers a bit because of its frequent flashbacks to the man’s pre–war life. Apparently the filmmakers felt the need for plenty of above-ground scenes, to prevent the everlasting tunneling from giving audiences a bad case of claustrophobia, but unlike the classic WWII tunnel-movie The Great Escape, there don’t seem to be enough good factual or fictional excuses for interesting open-air action.
Also unlike The Great Escape, which did perfectly well without a woman in the cast, Beneath Hill 60 is one of those war movies that include a love interest, which I suppose might be hoped to improve the film’s appeal to female moviegoers. Focusing much of this movie’s fresh-air scenes on the developing romance between the soldier and his future wife provided that draw, as well as a couple of opportunities for comic relief to lighten the mood.
I do pretty well with understanding most British and Irish accents, but I don’t hear Australian speech very often, so until I got used to the Down Under accents, I had some difficulty deciphering the dialogue. This was complicated by the whispering in the underground scenes, but sometime before the halfway point, I got up to speed.
It strains credulity a bit that an officer would have been sent to the front line without his understanding what enfilade fire is; likewise, for there to have been a soldier who could have experienced a significant amount of action under fire, but who still thought he could outrun machine gun bullets. The film also employs the popular “lions led by donkeys” perspective on the upper-echelons, and does it in a rather heavy-handed way.
But despite its weaknesses, the movie does a good job of shedding light on an aspect of early modern warfare that tends to be overshadowed by the artillery, the aircraft, and the futility of frontal assaults, which constitute the usual focus of First World War films.