Director: Cy Endfield
Starring: Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, and James Booth
Following the defeat of over a thousand British soldiers, an army of 4,000 Zulu warriors intends to attack the small British outpost at Rorke’s Drift. The missionary station which is being used as a field hospital is protected by about 150 soldiers, counting the wounded and sick. The ranking officer Lieutenant John Chard (Baker), a member of the Royal Engineers sent there to build a bridge. Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (Caine, in his breakout performance) is an infantryman with a more aristocratic background is put off with being outranked by an engineer, nonetheless, they lead the brigade of soldiers as they withstand charge after charge from the Zulu’s. Zulu tells the story of the twelve hours or so of that battle.
The history buff in me enjoyed this film. It was a battle, and a war for that matter, that I was not familiar with, and though it was a fictionalized version that stretched the truth of the battle, it was entertaining and informative. Stanley Baker and Michael Caine have great chemistry and their characters are so different that they complement each other very well. Bromhead represents the proper Brit, having gained his position from pedigree, in contrast with Chard’s hard work ethic and tough grit that carries him through.
Their relationship, and how it plays out throughout the battle, really grounds the film and keeps things interesting
I find there’s really very little to say about this film. The story is pretty straightforward, and the idea of a small army repelling a much larger army after the larger army had just obliterated a much larger army has a certain romantic ring to it.
Since this film was made in the 1960s, it seemed fitting that soldiers killing one another would look as primitive and fake as it did in this film. At times it didn’t even look like the person was stabbed, but they went down, or simply grabbing their chest when someone shoots at them. Though I’m not surprised by it, I was a little dissappointed.
Zulu was entertaining and informative. Critically acclaimed and a box-office his in its time, it served as a launching point for Michael Caine as his first major role and a great use of his acting talent. I’ve now seen this film twice, and while I won’t probably see it again, it’s nice to have watched it. I’d recommend seeing this if you enjoy history, but other than that it’d probably be ok to skip.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.