Zulu Classic Movie Review Directed by Cy Endfield Starring Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, and Jack Hawkins by Jeremy Richards
Despite the strength of Britainís rampant colonialism of the 19th century the Zulu warriors of Africa stood their ground and waged war. Set to take to their land and rights back for themselves they came across a small hospital outpost in the area called Rorkeís drift. Against only 139 Welsh soldiers the Zuluís could not defeat the brave men. After a full twenty-four hours of brutal fighting the Zuluís put down their arms. With strength, bravery, and tension at an all time both sides would gain a mutual respect for the courage a person can express. No one would look at imperialism the same way again.
Zulu is the amazing true story of British soldiers who fought against 4000 Zulu warriors at Rorkeís Drift in South Africa. That is a true story of only 139 British soldiers resisting a force of Zulu warriors 4000 strong. Not surprising the highest number of Victoria Crosses was awarded to the men after their long victory.
For Welsh producer Stanley Baker this film must have been a beloved project. The majority of the soldiers where Welshman, (a lower class at the time in British history), and it must have been a major source of pride for Baker. He was so absorbed by the battle that he even owned one of the soldierís Victoria Cross. Although up until the time of this death he believed his was only a replica.
A story like this is too amazing to be made up. Early on the morning of January 22nd 1879 Zulu warriors had destroyed a regiment of 1200 British Soldiers then turning their sights on the 139 men at a nearby army hospital. Against all odds the sick men stayed at the hospital and withheld a massive siege set to demolish them. Of the 139 soldiers who stayed at the hospital only 17 were killed.
The reason the men simply didnít flee the outpost is never answered in the film, but it is obvious that a caravan of wounded men would never outrun an army of healthy Zulu warriors in the wilds of Africa.
This is a very vigorous film to watch. It takes itís time in the first quarter to set up the setting, characters, and the situation before launching the viewer into a 24 hour long assault. Itís the same feeling before a difficult test, long presentation, or a stressful work day. Tension, nervousness, and uncertainty lead up to the event until you are in the thick of things and must summon the courage to overcome. Two contemporary films which have a very similar feeling are Black Hawk Down, and 300 which both focus on the events of men in battle against overwhelming odds.
Director Cy Endfield does an excellent job of providing action through the movie. He shows us the men descending into battle and how their personalities clash. Each man isnít the bravest in the world, but Endfield shows us that anyone is capable of summoning courage. The battles are shot with growing tension as the Zuluís first attack from the outside and then as both sides are brought into hand to hand combat.
This film was the breakout role for Michael Caine, and both he and Stanley Baker are excellent as the leads. Caine was apparently so nervous when watching himself during rushes that he refused to watch them again. But this film has a multitude of characters each displaying their own individuality and fortitude. This isnít Schwarzenegger as an army of one, but the true account of the brutality of war.
Whether it is a film which creates its own history or history which inspires a film the two seem connected. Zulu was filmed at a time when the apartheid was at its strongest. Many of the actors playing the Zulu warriors were actual descendants of the Zuluís from Rorkeís drift, but they had no rights in their own country. They were not allowed to be paid for their contribution nor were they allowed to attend the premiere of the film. To get around this racism director Cy Endfield donated the Zuluís the animals from the production. Ironically this gift was probably more valuable than money itself.