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Zulu

February 19, 2022

Zulu (1964)
Director: Cy Endfield
Actors: Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins

Calls to axe 'racist' Zulu film from Folkestone's Silver Screen Cinema  listings

Synopsis: The story of how a mere hundred British soldiers repelled an attack by thousands of Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift, Natal, in 1879.

Review: Although some aspects of this film have dated substantially in the near 60 years since its release (namely the realism and lustre that now accompanies the depiction of warfare in most modern Hollywood productions), Zulu stands the test of time by uncannily understanding itself as something of a chamber piece and by making atmosphere and suspense the centrepiece of its narrative rather than just the gratification of combat.

Time is one key aspect of the film’s structural success. There is a necessarily long opening sequence that characterises the force and vivacity of the Zulus in direct juxtaposition to the Brits we meet who are beset by illness, ennui and low morale. Once the contextualisation of the Zulus’ inherent strength, then the literal geography of Rorke’s Drift, have both been laid out, the narrative never leaves this small British outpost – emphasising the claustrophobia of the setting, and also making tangible the Brits’ fearful expectation of when the huge Zulu offensive will take place. It’s the film’s sense of its own theatricality that enables it to overcome some of the privations and amateurishness in its presentation of warfare. (February 2022)

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