Zulu (1964) is one of my all-time favourite films and having just re-watched it recently I thought I’d delight you with my overly bias review. Okay so Zulu tells the story of the battle for Rorke’s Drift in which a meagre 100 British soldiers are completely surrounded and outnumbered by a massive 4000 Zulu warriors and they must hold them off day and night using nothing more than the bullets in their guns and the sheer determination to survive. We see Michael Caine play a starring role as Lt. Gonville Bromhead, a soldier in the Queens army whose family has a long history of fighting in iconic British battles, Bromhead is involved with a continuous power struggle throughout the film with Lt. John Chard (Stanley Baker). We also encounter characters who offer comic relief such as Hook and characters who do nothing but get under your skin such as the interfering missionaries, who do nothing but convince half of the man power to run off.
So what is it that makes this film such an iconic and timeless tale? Well we have the fact that it’s based on a true story but more importantly the film gives us an early insight into the struggles human beings face during a time of war. It is important to note that this film was made at a time when the realities of war haven’t particularly been explored or depicted. Throughout the course of this film we see several characters struggle with the realities of war and killing people, how religion comes into play and characters struggling with and overcoming the futility of their own mortality, you see the change in character between them fighting for their survival and then the realisation that they are probably going to die.
Another significant element to this film, which I feel sets it apart from a lot of other 1960’s war films, is how the enemy are depicted. Although the Zulu are referred to as savages at times you realise throughout the film that they are warriors, who may not have the most successful tactics, but at the same time have a sophisticated for of battling and an appreciation and respect for the enemy. Something that is reciprocated by the British soldiers by the end of the film. That is one of the things that sets this film apart from say its US counter parts of the time, the less sophisticated, savage enemy is given a unique dimension which is uncommon for this period of film making. At no point in the film does the audience look down on or hate the enemy, this is something that may not be popular with all audiences, but it is something that I appreciate. The film presents both the heroes and the villains in a respectable light to the audience as the characters have an unspoken respect for each other throughout the film and this is something that is brought into its own during the final scenes.
I can do nothing but recommend this film, it is one of those films you have to see before you die. It is fantastic through and through even with the lack of blood and continuity errors between the amount of Zulu killed and the bodies on the ground. People die from a simple prod and the same Zulu is killed over and over again but it takes nothing away from film. Please see this film if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it.