History is full of bloody and senseless wars, but perhaps none are as infamous and controversial as The Vietnam War. Millions of people were killed in the conflict, and an entire generation of Americans were disillusioned by the horrific events that went down in those jungles on the other side of the world. However, America didn't fight alone. Many other countries sent young soldiers to Vietnam, including Australia, as dramatized in the new film, Danger Close.
Directed by Kriv Stenders, Danger Close stars an ensemble of some of Australia's most well-known stars, including Travis Fimmel, Alexander England, Daniel Webber, and Luke Bracey. They play real life soldiers who went to Vietnam and fought in The Battle of Long Tan, a brutal and unexpected skirmish that resulted in many deaths, but no clear victor.
While promoting the American release of Danger Close, Luke Bracey spoke to Screen Rant about his role in the war film. He expresses his philosophy that every war film is an anti-war film, and talks about how important it was to pay tribute to the men who went to Vietnam and never came back, never understanding why they were being sent off to fight and die over an ideological squabble. This sense of bitter melancholy permeates the entirety of the film and adds a palpable emotional weight to the non-stop action of Danger Close.
Danger Close is out now in theaters, On Digital, and VOD.
Do you have any family or friends who served in the armed forces? Does that help you prepare to play a soldier? How do you get into that mindset?
I don't have any family members who serve currently. I have grandparents who were involved in the Second World War, but they passed away before I could really talk to them about it. For me, I was lucky enough where I was in a war film a couple of years prior, Hacksaw Ridge.
Oh yeah, one of the greats.
For that film, what was really interesting was, we had a guy called Damien Thomlinson, who was in the cast. He was a former commando in the Australian special forces. I got to meet him while I was doing that, which gave me a bit of insight, which really helped. Look, for me, you're never gonna be able to fully prepare or get ready for the horrors of war. It's not something you can realistically get close to, not just in a safe way, but in a respectful. I'm not gonna pretend I understand exactly what they went through. I took the angle with this character, of Bob, and his role in the platoon of... He was a professional. This was his job, and this was something he strived for and really wanted to be good at it. The idea of being a leader, I tried to take a bit from my background in sports. I played Rugby growing up. But, you know, there's elements of brotherhood and sacrifice and stuff like that when you're playing a physical team sport like that. That's the closest thing that I'd come to, and trying to get back into that mentality of being on a team and putting others in front of yourself. I think that's what this movie really shows. These are boys who are put into extraordinary situations. They're just ordinary guys and they have to do extraordinary things. Those extraordinary things involve sacrificing yourself for the others around you. I mean, that was the closest thing I could get to the experience of war in terms of preparing. It's kind of like taking a sports metaphor, obviously not trying to diminish what our service members have done, but that was the closest I could get.
That's so interesting. It's one of those things where, I don't know if I'm being reductive, but if any young person wants to, right now, we could sign some papers and get sent off to the desert to maybe fight some people. It seems so foreign to us, even though a situation like that is theoretically within our grasp if we reach out for it.
Exactly, but a really interesting thing about our film is that all the extras in our film were all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Australia. To have those guys on set every day, we made friends with them. When you're making a movie, you're with everyone all day, all week, and you go out for a beer on Saturday night. And getting to know these guys, becoming friends... I'm still mates with a number of them, I'm still in contact with them. That really helped us as well. We got to hear some of their stories. They were so open with telling us their experiences. They were really encouraging for us actors, us actors running around pretending to be army men. You can feel a bit silly when you're in the presence of these real guys, the real heroes who actually went over and did it. Having them on set, being able to ask them questions... And more importantly, hearing them say, "You're doing a good job," and things like, "Thank you for telling this story." It was really helpful for us in terms of getting into that atmosphere and trying to get our heads around the sacrifices that were made by these ordinary guys.
I talked to Daniel Webber on this, but I wanted to get your take on this. Some of the talk around the movie online and all that was that it's "not political enough," that it doesn't delve into the moral and global political issues behind the war. But I don't know, when you have a movie about young people in a country they don't know, killing people they don't know, and dying for reasons they don't understand in a battle that nobody won... I don't think you can get much more political than that. When it comes to that discourse, do you ignore it, or do you parse it through? How do you handle any... Fallout is a dramatic word, but that kind of talk surrounding your art?
I mean, look. In the case of this movie, for me it was not about making a political statement. This movie wasn't about that. It was always about these young men who got sent off to a land they don't know for reasons they don't care, and their effort to survive and help each other to survive. I don't think anybody involved with Danger Close is out to make a political statement about the merits or lack thereof of the conflict they were in. This is for the men that went. I think, when you boil down what this movie is about, it's not about anything but the strength and courage and sacrifice of these young men. Many of them have unfortunately passed away over the years, but some of them are still with us. This is four hours of their life that happened sixty-something years ago, that still affects them every single day. I think that was the most important thing. For me, I always think any war movie is an anti-war movie. I think that for this one, as well. I see the love and compassion that people can have for each other, and the respect. When it comes to that kind of stuff, it's not the movie we wanted to make. If we wanted to make that kind of movie, I would engage in that, but that's not what this film is about. We wanted to give these men their story, finally. They had big troubles when they came back from Vietnam. They were not recognized. They were shunned by society. They were shunned by the other veterans of previous wars. And that's a real shame, because the political turmoil got put onto these young men, and that's not what they deserved. I think it was more respectful that we didn't go through that because they've already been through that for the past 50 years of their life. This, for us, was a movie for them, about them, and about all the men who had to go through those awful battles in that war.
I do have to concede, I didn't know much about this story until I got assigned this story. And it does echo a lot of the sentiments in the States, about Vietnam and how its veterans didn't get treated fairly.
I've got one last question for you, a little lighter in tone to close things out. I'm just interested in the Australian film business. Is there any kind of big difference between the two industries that stands out to you?
I love working in Australia. That was the second film I was able to make in Australia. We did Hacksaw Ridge in Australia, in Sydney, with basically an all-Australian crew. For me, I'm biased! I really love working in Australia. It's home. It's such a familiar air. There's a real no-nonsense nature to filmmaking in Australia, which I love. It's a real team sport. Everyone is there to try and make a great product and work and help each other. I really like the more egalitarian nature of it. I mean, in Hollywood movies, us actors can be put a bit on a pedestal... There's certain realms where that's necessary, but I love the team atmosphere of film, and I think you really get that in Australia. Not to say all movies are like that, but I guess it's just that feeling of home, that really grounded nature that Australia has, we're very cognizant of making sure nobody's too big for their boots. I like that honest nature of making films in Australia, and that real family atmosphere that gets created on the sets.