Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Epic Films - Wartime

The Lighthorsemen Movie Review

dave soldiers cavalry british

1987 – Simon Wincer –

When most people think of soldiers and horses, they think of the cavalry. But in spite of its title The Lighthorsemen is not about the cavalry. It is about the Australian Mounted Infantry and their fighting in Palestine during World War I against the Germans and Turks. Particularly, it is about one Lighthorseman, Dave Mitchell (Peter Phelps), and his inability to shoot at enemy soldiers. New to the outfit, Dave replaces a brave soldier who died in a military hospital after being shot during a skirmish with Turkish cavalry. Dave is placed with three veterans and forms a friendship with them. He begins to see that he will never be able to shoot an enemy soldier, and he asks for reassignment to the medical corps as a stretcher bearer. Already in love with a nurse from the hospital (Sigrid Thornton), he works to develop this relationship. When the unit is ordered to lead the assault on Beersheba, he is in the medical unit that goes in with the troops.

This powerful climax is the big highlight of a film that weaves a number of smaller plots together to create the basic conflict over the water wells of Beersheba. Without those wells the British and Australian armies are doomed. The soldiers cut every supply line and haul only what water they can carry for a two-day trek to Beersheba to take the town and capture the wells. There is no turning back. Once committed, they must either win or die. The first wave of the assault comes down to sending in either the British Cavalry or the Australian Lighthorsemen. The British commander opts to send in the Aussies, and they fool the defending German and Turkish artillery by not stopping to dismount and by rushing directly at the lines in a thundering charge.

The movie has a wonderful look to it. There are majestic scenes of desert landscapes and evening shots with sunsets over the Mediterranean. But perhaps the best work of cinematography comes in the climactic charge of the Lighthorsemen, an enormous scene reminiscent of Pickett's charge in Gettysburg. The script also accomplishes the difficult task of clearly keeping the viewer informed about the logistics of the soldiers and pertinent background information leading to this moment without either seeming obvious or sacrificing any of the building suspense. The Lighthorsemen effectively dramatizes the race between the Germans to blow up the wells and the British to save them.

Cast: Peter Phelps (Dave Mitchell), Sigrid Thornton (Anne), Nick Waters (Lighthorse Sergeant), John Larking (Station Master), John Heywood (Dave's Dad), Di O'Connor (Dave's Mum), Shane Briant (Reichert), Ralph Cotterill (Von Kressenstein), Bill Kerr (Chauvel), Grant Piro (Charlie), Tony Bonner (Bourchier), Serge Lazareff (Rankin), Gary Sweet (Frank), John Walton (Tas), Tim McKenzie (Chiller), Jon Blake (Scotty) Screenwriter: Ian Jones Cinematographer: Dean Semler Composer: Mario Millo Producer: Simon Wincer and Ian Jones for Medusa; released by RKO MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 131 minutes Format: VHS.

The Longest Day Movie Review [next] [back] Henry V Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or