Zulu (1964)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Zulu</strong> (1964)

(Snagfilms Streaming, October 2018) Social standards of acceptability change over time, and movies such as Zulu can illustrate these shifts with blinding clarity. It is, after all, a film in which a small band of British soldiers defend an outpost against a far more numerically numerous groups of Zulu warriors. Featuring Michael Caine in one of his earliest roles, it’s a war movie with an expansive scope: The battle sequences are inspired by American westerns (which bring up a whole other bag of issues to consider), and they take up the full widescreen. Of course, from our perspective, the film is about something else that we’re not quite as fond of seeing: imperial forces killing native populations. Yet at the time of its release, fifty-five years ago, Zulu was perceived as both a stirring tribute to British imperialism, and as unusually respectful depiction of the Zulu warriors: They are portrayed as clever, organized and deadly. Alas, the film does show its clear allegiances later in the film as the Zulus pay tribute to the resisting Englishmen, once again going back to the increasingly ridiculous trope of having marginalized characters affirm the nobility of our (while, male, etc.) protagonists. This being said, Zulu still plays rather well for most of its duration. Modern sensibilities about seeing groups of humans slaughter each other don’t quite manage to dampen the stirring combat sequences, the heroic sacrifices of the English-speaking characters and the good old last-stand theatrics. I do have a number of issues with the result, but Zulu is what it is.

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