The box art for the new Criterion Collection edition of “Breaker Morant” features the image of a lone man standing, arms tied behind his back, awaiting a firing squad.
Except that in Bruce Beresford’s 1980 movie, things look quite different. Harry “Breaker” Morant (Edward Woodward) faces his executioners not on his two feet, but sitting, in the middle of a field in a little wooden chair that looks like it was swiped from someone’s kitchen table. The sun is setting over the hills — it could be a nice little moment, if it weren’t for the rifles.
It’s a surreal touch of civilization in the middle of a very uncivilized war in Africa. Throughout Beresford’s gripping film, we see civilization and savagery at odds with each other, the former offering a veneer of cover for the latter. It’s a great film, and the new Blu-ray edition gives “Breaker Morant” its due.