The true story of a remarkable WWI military campaign, "Beneath Hill 60" is a well-groomed Australian low-budgeter undermined by dull pacing and cliched characterizations. Second-time helmer Jeremy Hartley Sims commands a cavalcade of local thesps armed only with excessive expository dialogue. Set for a mid-April release -- to coincide with Anzac Day, a national day of military remembrance -- pic, like 2006's "Kokoda," is aimed squarely at the local market's proven appetite for patriotic war pics. International prospects will be an uphill battle.

The true story of a remarkable WWI military campaign, “Beneath Hill 60″ is a well-groomed Australian low-budgeter undermined by dull pacing and cliched characterizations. Second-time helmer Jeremy Hartley Sims commands a cavalcade of local thesps armed only with excessive expository dialogue. Set for a mid-April release — to coincide with Anzac Day, a national day of military remembrance — pic, like 2006’s “Kokoda,” is aimed squarely at the local market’s proven appetite for patriotic war pics. International prospects will be an uphill battle.

Mild-mannered Lt. Oliver Woodward (Brendan Cowell) joins Aussie troops in the Great War’s European trenches to lend his engineering expertise. Initial success catapults Woodward and his mostly merry platoon into a vital mission tunneling under German lines to blow up the titular target. Sims’ direction improves on his stagy 2006 bow, “Last Train to Freo,” but the script fumbles the scenario’s exciting possibilities. Finale makes a late stab at character depth, but fails to compensate for pic’s passe, self-congratulatory caricatures of Australian soldiers. Valiant thesps endure flat dialogue, though Cowell overdoes his five-mile-stare acting tic. Toby Oliver’s lensing is crisp; bombastic score is too grandiose for the onscreen proceedings.

Beneath Hill 60

Australia

Production

A Transmission, Paramount release of a Screen Australia presentation in association with Screen NSW, Screen Queensland of a Silence Prods. production. (International sales: Intandem, London.) Produced by Bill Leimbach. Executive producers, Ross J. Thomas, Greg Rains, John Lee. Co-producers, Jeremy Sims, David Roach. Directed by Jeremy Hartley Sims. Screenplay, David Roach.

Crew

Camera (color), Toby Oliver; editor, Dany Cooper; music, Cezary Skubiszewski; production designer, Clayton Jauncey. Reviewed at Paramount Theatrette, Sydney, April 7, 2010. English, German dialogue. Running time: 121 MIN.

With

Brendan Cowell, Steve Le Marquand, Gyton Grantley, Chris Haywood, Jacqueline McKenzie, Harrison Gilbertson, Aden Young, John Stanton.

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