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April 8, 2015
Gallipoli (2015) Blu-Ray Review
TV Air Date Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
201518/3/2015Village RoadshowGlendyn Ivin
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD MA 5.1MA15+Kodi Smit-McPhee

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Kodi Smit-McPhee stars in the TV series Gallipoli.

2015 is a big year for celebrating the history of our armed services as it commemorates 100 years since the Gallipoli landing. To celebrate the centenary Channel 9 aired this 7-part TV mini-series called Gallipoli, a series which has now been released on Blu-Ray.

Gallipoli tells the story of the greatest invasion in the history of warfare was to become a diabolical failure – an eight-month siege where the bravery of Anzac troops was squandered. But in doing so a legend, and a nation, were born.

As dawn breaks on April 25, 1915, ANZAC troops go into battle on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula. Landing in the dark chaos, Tolly, Bevan and their mates struggle to establish a tenuous foothold on the treacherous slopes and deep ravines. They endure the next eight months on the peninsula learning lessons of survival. By the time of the final evacuation they have also learned the skills of combat and what it means to be a young man in war.

Admittedly after watching the first episode of Gallipoli, which runs for a lengthy 77 minutes instead of the typical 45 minute episodes, I was left somewhat, well, disappointed. Unlike most war films and TV series there is no time to get to know the characters throguh their home life or training, but you're just thrown into battle and have to pick up characters as the battle unfolds. Unfortnately for Channel 9 the number of viewers plummeted to the point where they dumped the series with double episodes to finish it off. Those that stuck with it however would have discovered a great series with each episode often focusing on different aspects of the Gallipoli campaign.

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A Turkish soldier takes aim in Gallipoli (2015).
It must be said there are some brilliant moments in this series. In the second episode a Turkish Captain comes out from his trenches to allow the Aussie Diggers to retrieve a wounded man. It's a great moment that shows the cost on both sides, and that the Turkish soldiers had compassion as well. The series also manages to capture some of the Aussie larrakin sense of humour, even in dire situations there is always the odd quip or moment to lighten the mood, but never to the point of being groanworthy. At one point, in Episode 3, the Australian and Turkish soldiers have a compeition to shoot each other's shovels from opposing trenches to much amusement.

There is no doubt this is a pretty gruesome series in places, but nothing that the real soldiers wouldn't have seen themselves. In the second episode a truce is called between the fighting forces to collect the dead in no mans land. Here, bodies are dismembered, limbs and heads piled up and maggots even eating the rotting flesh. It's gruesome, gut-wrenching, but shows the true horrors of war. Nothing is more gut-wrenching however then the waves of soldiers sent over the trenches only to be mown down by the Turkish machine gunners laying in wait in the opposing trenches at The Nek. It was a battle where 372 Australian soldiers lost their lives or were wounded and only, reportedly, 8 Turkish solders were casualties.

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Australian and Turkish soldiers during a truce.
When I look back at great Australian films and TV series about the war two come to mind. The first is the 1985 mini-series ANZACs and the second is the 1981 Peter Wier directed, and Mel Gibson starring, Gallipoli feature film (which is coming to Blu-Ray in mid-April). This TV mini-series is lacking in some areas - primarily character development in the first episode - however this is a great series based on a pivitol moment in Australian and Turkish history. Fortunately, with a runtime of 6 hours, there is enough time to go into the doomed military campaign in detail, and eventually get to know the characters. Most importantly this series doesn't pull any punches with the horrors, gore or violence of war and is a fitting tribute to the hell these brave men went through.

While we're not sure of the budget for this mini-series, the video transfer is quite impressive with a great looking, screen-filling, AVC MPEG-4 encoded video at 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The daytime scenes look great and there's a stunning level of detail and also impressive are the scenes at night time which retain the fine detail while never becoming too dark or murky.

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Even in darker scenes the Blu-Ray transfer of Gallipoli holds up very well.
Gallipoli is presented on Blu-Ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is a pretty decent experience however it isn't the most bombastic soundtrack ever. Still, when you're talking about warfare 100 years ago the battlefields weren't filled with massive machine guns and powerful explosives. No, the guns of the era were rifles, and grenades and machine guns were still in their infancy. Don't get me wrong, when the battles take place the soundfield comes to life, it's just not as impactful as a modern day war film.

At all times the dialogue is crystal clear, and even in the heat of battle there are no issues understanding what is being said - or shouted. During these battles too the surround sound channels burst to life with bullets whizzing past and explosions filling the room.

The only other audio track is an Audio Descriptive track for the Vision Impaired which is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 224kbps. As expected the downgrade to 2 channel heavily compressed, audio means some of the clarity is lost, and of course the surround sound is missing during the battles when the whizzing of bullets really adds atmosphere to the experience.

This Blu-Ray release of Gallipoli includes only a single subtitle track, Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired. We sampled this track through various points in the series and it was always accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

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Gallipoli is a great mini-series.
Sadly this release is devoid of extras besides a single audio commentary. While great, it would have been nice to have a few more commentaries, or perhaps a few other extras.

Episode 1 Audio Commentary with Dr. Dayton McCarthy, Historical and Military Advisor: This is quite a decent commentary, in fact I would say essential for anyone looking for more information about the actual campaign and while this commentary focuses on the original beach landing and initial phases of the campaign.

While it has some issues, Gallipoli is a TV series well worth watching if the subject matter is of interest and we plead with you to continue beyond the first episode. While the lack of extras disappoints, a great audio-visual transfer makes this Blu-Ray release one to consider.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.