Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) is a prize-winning runner from Western Australia. His uncle takes him to an athletics carnival where he beats broke railway worker Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson).
Archy dreams of joining the army to fight in World War I, but is considered to be too young. Frank, sensing an opportunity forges documents for Archy and they both set off for the campaign in Gallipoli - the campaign that to Australia and New Zealand's day of remembrance - Anzac Day.
Set against the beautiful Western Australian background, the film opens to a very unexpected piece of music - Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene. After the first half an hour of the film you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Chariots of Fire. Two runners, from completely different backgrounds, eventually face off before later teaming up together.
Later, as the action moves to the very different mayhem of a Turkish metropolis the music becomes more Spartan by focusing on the war ahead, but it is the foundation of camaraderie which makes Gallipoli a film about two young men, rather than something that studies the intricacies of the Turkish campaign.
The description of the film leads me to compare Gallipoli to All Quiet On The Western Front and it is easy to see why. Both see naive men making their way into a battle they are barely prepared for and both give alternative views of the First World War.
In fact, rather than glorifying war - or condemning it for that matter - Gallipoli gives a very mixed view. While Archy, who has his life mapped out anyway, wants to go to war to give the ultimate service to his country, the down-and-out Frank has serious reservations. This leads Mel Gibson to play the 'hard' man with a tender core - a role for which he became well-known for (Braveheart's Wallace, Lethal Weapon's Riggs) before his later, more controversial, efforts.
Whatever people's views on war or Gibson, Gallipoli must go down as an outstanding Australian effort in portraying one of the greatest moments in the Pacific nations' histories.