Kokoda (2006)




Director:  Alister Grierson. 

Starring:  Jack Finsterer (Jack Scholt), Travis McMahon (Darko), Simon Stone (Max Scholt), Luke Ford (Burke), Tom Budge (Johnno), Steve Le Marquand (Sam), Angus Sampson (Dan), Christopher Baker (Blue), Ewen Leslie (Wilstead), Ben Barrack (The Lieutenant), Shane Bourne (The Doctor), William McInnes (The Colonel), Darren Taylor (Soldier - Forward Position), Lucas Stibbard (Wounded Man), Kyle Baxter (Runner), Chris Hillier (Digger - AIF), Kit McDee (Officer - AIF), Damien Cassidy (Lieutenant).

Australian troops fight the Japanese during the 1942 Kokoda Track campaign


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

World War II.  The Japanese are heading south toward Australia.  The narrator Jack Scholt says that the Americans, with their fleet at the bottom of the Pacific, are in no position to help us.  Some 10,000 Japanese are headed from Kokoda in Papua New Guinea to Port Moresby through Isurava.  We are alone and digging in on the Kokoda Track.  We have been here two weeks at Isurava waiting for the Japanese.  We're called "chocos" ("chocolate soldiers"), volunteers who unload ships and dig roads.  The AIF army will be here to relieve us soon.  They assume we will melt in the heat of battle.  We are plagued with dysentery and malaria.  We are, in short, lambs to the slaughter. 

Jack, covered in thick mud from head to foot, waits as the natives carry the wounded on stretchers up the mountain to the camp.  He sees his brother Max being brought up and runs downhill to greet him.  His brother asks him to check his wound.  Jack slowly unbuttons the buttons on the lower parts of his brother's shirt and his intestines burst forward with a snake mixed in with them.  Jack wakes up from the nightmare. 

The new skipper is a Colonel from the Sixth Division AIF.  With him is a lieutenant.  The local surgeon complains that he has no medical supplies for the volunteers.  He comments that it is criminal to have the volunteers face the Japanese considering that the volunteers have neither experience or training.  The doctor comments to Jack that "You're going to die her.  All of us.  We have to." 

Jack's group is on the front line.  Jack and some of his comrades go out on patrol to see if the Japanese are near.  They take up positions in a semi-fortified outpost and wait for the Japanese to show themselves.  As they wait and wait and wait, a Japanese soldier hidden with very effective camouflage comes in from behind the lieutenant and kills him.  The fighting starts.  Confusion spreads in the ranks and some fellows are cut-off from their mates.  One of these fellows hides under a fallen tree.  He sees a Japanese soldier walk past him.  After the enemy is gone, the Australian sees that he has dropped an object near the tree.  He rolls out from his hiding place to grab the object and finds a Japanese soldier with bayonet and rifle trained on him.  After some slight hesitation, the Japanese soldier shoves his bayonet into the Australian's skull.  

The cut-off patrol is in a bad situation and it is made worse by their communications going out.  A couple of the fellows are so scared that they defecate in their pants.  (Made easier by the rampant dysentery in the group.)  A member of the patrol finds the main patrol group.  He complains that someone has to go out and find his mate Blue who is still out there somewhere in the jungle.  Two fellows volunteer to search for the man.  At night they find the Japanese by the fire they have started to cook their food.  They see that the man they are looking for is tied up near the fire and the Japanese soldiers are taking turns sticking bayonets in his gut. His head is then cut-off.    

The patrol is now down to six men.  They hear the sounds of battle far off in the distance.   One of the men says that they have to go back for their mate who was wounded in the thigh.  They do so and help the man catch up with the rest of the group.  The wounded man feels that he is a drain on his mates and goes off into the jungle by himself.  The patrol looks for him, but only finds his pocket watch.  As they leave the area, the camera shows the man unconscious or sleeping in the middle of a huge hollowed-out tree stump and the patrol walking right past the stump.

Max is at the head of the patrol and sees a man with an Australian hat squatting at the base of a huge tree.  He thinks the man is Sam and calls out to him.  The man jumps up and Max sees that it is a Japanese soldier wearing an Australian hat.  He fires and wounds the man.  Max, however, is hit by a bullet to the gut and he goes down.  The rest of the patrol chase away the remainder of the Japanese soldiers.  The wounded Japanese soldier is killed.  They then make a stretcher to carry Max with them.  They find an abandoned village hut and put Max on the floor of the hut where he can rest.  Burke goes out to check the surroundings and finds the bodies of two dead natives.  Two of the soldiers want Jack to leave his brother and proceed with them back to their camp, but Jack does not want to leave his brother.  The odd man out decides that he is too tired to continue and says he is staying behind with Max.  The other two plus Jack proceed onward. 

In the night a Japanese patrol walks right past the three Australians hiding in the tall grass.  Later they follow their tracks and attack the Japanese sitting around their campfire.  They kill a number of them, while a couple may have gotten away. 

Back at the native hut, Japanese soldiers arrive.  The volunteer with Max runs out the back of the hut into the village and is pursued by several Japanese soldiers.  Max grabs his rifle and prepares to shoot the first Japanese soldier that tries to enter his hut.  A man appears in front of the hut opening but he turns out to be a native.  Max's guardian hides in the jungle but is found and killed by the Japanese. 

Jack and the two other volunteers run into an AIF unit and are directed to back to the camp.  Jack is able to see Max being carried back on a stretcher by four native stretcher-bearers.  He is very glad to see his brother.  The volunteers wait around the medical station for treatment.  The wait is a long one and the volunteers decide to join the regular Australian troops and fight alongside them.  The volunteers face heavy action as a large force of Japanese frontally assaults the Australian fortified positions.   The Australians stop the attack.  In the fight Burke is killed. 

An officer addresses the remaining volunteers many of them wounded.  The officer tells the men that they are an inspiration and that history will remember them.  He adds:  "I'm honored to be your brother."  The volunteers begin to move out.

The Australians had to withdraw from Isurava.  They fought rearguard actions back along the track.  After three more weeks of bloodshed, the Japanese are forced to retreat even though they were now in sight of their goal of Port Moresby.  For the first time in the Second World War, the Japanese army had been stopped.  Australia would not be invaded.  Chiseled into the memorial at the village of Isurava are four words:  courage, endurance, mateship, sacrifice


Pretty good movie.  As an American, it was often hard to follow what the Australian actors were saying. It was also often hard to tell the Australian soldiers apart from one another since they were wearing hats with wide brims and were filthy dirty.  You can, however, follow the main action.  Tension is maintained because the sightings of the Japanese are few and far-between and because you can't see very far in thick jungle vegetation.  Along with the Australians, you find yourself searching the jungle looking for the arrival of the Japanese.  Men under terrible conditions are often able to rise to the occasion and the non-experienced, non-trained and often belittled Australian volunteers certainly rose to the challenge.  They were out numbered by ten to one and yet they held against the Japanese.  The movie is a great tribute, as their monument says, to their courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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