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Kokoda: 39th Battalion

Kokoda: 39th BattalionInspired by the heroic true story of
  a small band of untrained army recruits,
  whose outstanding courage and
  bravery proved to be pivotal in saving
  Australia from an imminent Japanese
  invasion during World War II, Kokoda:
  39th Battalion is an unforgettable war
  movie that graphically portrays the
  devastating horrors of jungle warfare

HAVING SET THEIR SIGHTS ON AUSTRALIA, ten thousand Japanese are blazing a bloody trail across the island of Papua New Guinea from Kokoda in an attempt to establish a stronghold from which to launch an invasion on the Australian mainland.

It is 1942 and the Australians are already stretched to breaking point. The United States, their fleet decimated on the seabed at Pearl Harbour and their eyes turned on the Philippines, cannot help. As the only available men, the 39th Battalion's volunteers and conscripts bear alone the responsibility for advancing along the Kokoda Trail — the island's key supply route — to stop the Japanese.

To the enlisted men, these untrained, inexperienced and inadequately armed troops — volunteers sent to New Guinea to unload ships and dig roads — are known as "Chocos": chocolate soldiers who melt in the heat of battle.

Outnumbered ten to one, the Chocos have been here for two weeks waiting for the Australian army to relieve them. Two of the men are brothers, Jack (Jack Finsterer) and Max (Simon Stone), sworn to look out for each other until the bitter end.

Suffering from dysentery and lack of sleep, food, shelter and medical supplies, many are exhausted to the point of collapse. A small patrol of men find themselves separated from the main battalion — trapped behind enemy lines with no communication.

Stranded for days in the steeply-sloping jungle landscape, where behind every tree could be an enemy; battered by torrential rain and weakened by dysentery, malaria, foot rot and starvation, the exhausted band of young recruits bravely struggle to endure numerous Japanese stealth attacks before the survivors stagger from the jungle to join their fellow soldiers back at base.

But their arrival coincides with the news that a key location on the island is about to fall to the Japanese and — despite being sick and battle-fatigued beyond belief — the Chocos rejoin the battle for the final showdown that will change the course of the war.

The winner of the Special Jury Award at 2007 Houston International Film Festival, Kokoda: 39th Battalion is a gripping, graphic portrayal of the horrors of war in appalling conditions and with impossible odds in a strange, beautiful but unforgiving land where the nightmares are the reality. There is a liberal use of the F-word — well, they are Aussies! — as the men battle with the enemy and the elements.

Based on true events, Kokoda: 39th Battalion is the debut feature from Director Alister Grierson and it extensively documents events and situations that saw Australian soldiers fighting for their own country's freedom — instead of somebody else's — for the first time.

A suspenseful, memorable and moving portrayal of bravery and the power of the human spirit to overcome insurmountable odds in hellish conditions, Kokoda: 39th Battalion is a first victory over the Japanese during the course of World War II.

Kokoda: 39th Battalion
is everything you would expect of a war film, with tragic and emotional moments and examples of compassion, comradeship, loyalty, heroism, fear and selflessness. And it isn't unnecessarily gory.

A number of lighter moments open the film up, with a soldier falling into wet mud and coming out looking like… a chocolate soldier! And one man asks: "I don't suppose it would be any good to ask for compassionate leave? On the grounds that I don't want to get my head blown off!"

Chiselled into the memorial at the village of Isurava are four words: Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice. A fitting tribute — along with this film — to the courageous men who were willing to give their lives for their country.

Kokoda: 39th Battalion features: Travis McMahon as Darko; Luke Ford as Burke; Tom Budge as Johnno; Steve Le Marquand as Sam; Angus Sampson as Dan; Christopher Baker as Bluey; Ewen Leslie as Wilstead; Ben Barrack as The Lieutenant; Shane Bourne as The Doctor and William McInnes as The Colonel. The film is written by Alister Grierson and John Lonie; Director of Photography is Jules O'Loughlin; the Composer John Gray and Costume Designer Phill Eagles.

Kokoda: 39th Battalion is now available on DVD from Showbox Home Entertainment (released 30 June, 2008). Certificate: 15 | RRP: £12.99 | Features Include: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio options; chapter index; trailers.

"Kokoda: 39th Battalion is a gripping, graphic portrayal of the horrors of war in appalling conditions and with impossible odds in a strange, beautiful but unforgiving land where the nightmares are the reality" — MotorBar