Sunday, 1 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1981: Bill Hunter in Gallipoli

Bill Hunter did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Major Barton in Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is a film about the friendship of two different men Frank and Archy played by Mel Gibson and Mark Lee respectively, but there is a fairly solid ensemble that surrounds the two as they go from running for reward to running for their lives. Bill Hunter plays a superior officer in the Cavalry unit in which Archy and later Frank find themselves in. In the early scenes of his performance there is not all that much to Hunter's actual character. His brief moments though nicely humanize the superior in the military as Hunter plays Major Barton as an actual man in the position rather than some sort of inhuman representation of the military as he might have been played.

The real meat of Hunter's performance comes when the light cavalry is finally put into action as infantry who must attempt to take the enemy position by running across no man's land. Hunter is terrific in the scene as he shows the way Major Barton changes just through the course of initiating the plan. At the beginning Hunter keeps Barton as the likable enough superior, as a man it is completely understandable why he would allow Frank to take Archy's place as message carrier simply because of Archy's plead to him. Hunter begins with Barton with the humanitarian bent as he shows concern that the enemies turret guns have not been displaced, but Hunter still portrays the military restrictions as the man as he still is determined to proceed with the plan.

The last sequence of the film is amazing held together brilliantly by the performances of Gibson, Lee and Hunter who actually is equally important to the power of this end. Where Archy just has to wait until being called to make the run for the enemy lines, Frank also must follow orders to transfer the messages only allowed slight sway in the proceedings, and even Major Barton must follow orders although is allowed to think about it for a little longer. Hunter is exceptional in portraying the increasing desperation in Major Barton as he sees that his men barely make it on the field before being quickly killed by the onslaught of machine gun fire that rains down upon them.

Where Lee's Archy is the unfortunate soldier, and Gibson shows the futile attempt of a man to make a difference, Hunter shows the unfortunate reality of the chain of command in his performance as Major Barton. Barton could have easily been made to be a foolish lifeless man ordering the deaths of others, but the writing and Hunter's take on the major makes the ending of the film far more powerful. Hunter shows the humanity still in Barton and you can see how every death is tearing him apart to the point where he becomes a shaking mess of despair, but nevertheless Hunter still shows that restrictions in the man that forces him to follow his orders even in his emotional devastation. Hunter gives a remarkable performance by making Major Barton a good man who allows the deaths of men because it is his orders to do so.

9 comments:

Psifonian said...

"I want you all to remember who you are! You're the 10th Light Horse! Men from Western Australia! Don't forget it!"

A true heartbreaker of a line. Hunter was marvelous.

Michael Patison said...

I completely agree. Such a powerful performance. This was a character that could have been so easy to hate because he mindlessly follows orders and sends his men to die. Hunter, however, makes this a brilliant portrait of a man in a pathetic and terribly difficult situation that is heartbreaking each and every time I watch it.

Anonymous said...

I have a question,If all of the people on this blog were actors =D what part would you all play in a film?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'd play the snarky comic relief who's hiding the fact that he's absolutely miserable and lonely.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd be the one who tries really hard to do what's right but always seems to mess things up.

Michael Patison said...

I'd be the snarky comic relief as well. I'd be using it because I'm introverted and often prefer being alone.

RatedRStar said...

I would be, well the same role that I seem to have on this blog lol, the obvious cocky main villain who is haunted by his dark past and takes it out on everyone else.

Louis Morgan said...

I guess I'm the lead although an often passive observer sort of lead.

houndtang said...

Great actor who appeared in seemingly every Australian film ever made. He was great in Muriels Weddunf, Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla.