Against a backdrop broader than his previous outings, Weir has fashioned what is virtually an intimate epic [from his own screen story]. A very big picture by Aussie standards, the film is all the same a finely-considered story focussing closely on the relationship that builds between Frank (Mel Gibson) and Archy (Mark Lee), and how it is affected by events on the battlefield of Gallipoli.
Gallipoli is as much an essential part of the Australian ethos as, say The Alamo is to Texas: a military defeat that became rationalized over the years into a moral victory. In April 1915 a combined force of Australian and New Zealand troops numbering about 35,000 joined an Allied attempt to control the Dardanelles waterway by capturing Istanbul. Bungling by the generals allowed the Turks time to dig in and the landings devolved into stalemate, but not before much bitter fighting.
The Australian-New Zealand Army Corps in great part bore the brunt of the bitterest exchanges. Thus Peter Weir’s Gallipoli tackles a legend in human terms and emerges as a highly entertaining drama on a number of levels, none of them inaccessible to anyone unfamiliar with the actual events.