Blood Oath Review

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A lawyer investigates claims that the Japanese military were responsible for the deaths of 800 Australian POWs.


In 1946, 100 Japanese officers and guards were tried for appalling war crimes - including the mass murder of 800 Australian soldiers - at the prisoner-of-war camp on the Indonesian island of Ambon, the POW camp with the highest death rate of any in World War II.

Blood Oath dramatises the military tribunal as scripted by the son of its real-life chief prosecutor, portrayed here with a lot of fuming and gut-gnawing by Bryan Brown. Bound by compact, the Japanese are defiantly silent while the Indonesians and Australians demand vengeance and settle for token retribution. With charges of war crimes already a Gulf War issue before the current battle is even won, this may perhaps be looked to for pertinence, if not great drama.

Hard though it tries, however, to make Big Statements about the misuses of power and privilege, about the subordination of justice to political expediency, Blood Oath is ultimately pretty much the same old same old. It is not particularly well put, and its aspirations are confused by shifting recriminations and sympathies and its inability to enlighten us as to just what is supposed to be the true and right, or even satisfactory, response to such evil deeds. And things are not helped along one iota by the appearance of faces too familiar from Aussie soaps and mini-series, even unto Jason Donovan doing a turn as a nice little corporal.

Judgment At Nuremberg or Breaker Morant this is not.