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Changi - Stephen Curry, Leon Ford, Anthony Hayes, Kate Woods

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Movie propaganda

In times of war, humour is often the best defence.

Changi is a story of Australian mateship. Over six episodes, the series follows six young Australians who go to war, full of confidence and bravado. They land in Singapore in 1942, just in time for the surrender. With 15,000 others, they are marched off to Changi prison camp. Together, the six boys survive three and a half years of incarceration. Along the way they see many mates disappear to various work camps and while Gordon loses a toe, Curley nearly his mind, Eddie his faith, Bill his ability to trust, David his memory and Tom his soul, they never lose their central dependence on each other. Almost 60 years later, the six prepare to get together for what may be their last hurrah.

Persons of interest

  • Stephen Curry .... Eddie
  • Leon Ford .... Bill Dwyer
  • Anthony Hayes .... Gordon Yates
  • Matthew Newton .... David Collins
  • Mark Priestley .... John 'Curley' Foster
  • Matthew Whittet .... Tom
  • Geoff Morrell .... Rowdy Lawson
  • Charles 'Bud' Tingwell .... Older David Collins
  • Frank Wilson .... Older Gordon Yates
  • Terry Norris .... Older Bill Dwyer
  • Slim DeGrey .... Older John "Curley" Foster
  • Bill Kerr .... Older Eddie
  • Desmond Kelly .... Older Tom
  • Jill Perryman .... Older Kate
  • Mary Docker .... Young Kate
  • Nicholas Hope .... Guillaume Koper
  • Gotaro Tsunashima .... Lieutenant Aso
  • Shingo Misawa .... Colonel Nakamura
  • Sean Taylor .... Colonel Smythe
  • John Gregg .... Colonel Carter
  • John Doyle .... Screenwriter
  • Kate Woods .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Well, it was kind of hard to see a lot of it because I was crying too much. Seeing the pain these men went through and the pain they still go through, he was given no choice. Changi, if nothing else, lets you understand how much the world wars changed the nature of Australian culture. Men were suddenly more than some bloke down the street, they were the ones who saved your life, or whose life you saved, who suffered through years of deprivation, starvation, boredom, terror, things for which nothing back home could prepare you, things for which there were no words to describe.

John's script is not only a masterful weaving of time and space, it is a celebration of the Australian spirit: stand united against the enemy, protect the weak, celebrate the strong and take the bloody piss. Thank the goddess that Aussies have that sense of humour to defend against horrible things like Little Johnnie Howard and economic rationalism. Kate's direction is excellent: she draws the most from the script that can be drawn and frames it in a sympathetic yet unsentimental world. Changi is a hell hole but it is only a background to the real story, the real drama, which is that of the six men. In youth and old age the actors live and breathe the lives of their characters. There's no difference between the ensemble work in the past and the solo work in the present. As the series progresses and each man's story unfolds you begin to appreciate the depth of the performances even more.

The men are real.

Their stories are real.

John celebrates Australianess in the bold humour of the POWs, but he also gives adversity its due. Changi is not a sitcom, it's reality. There are no happy endings, only the passage of time. Whether it be the failure of an ageing body, marrying the wrong woman, having the wrong children or an inability to find peace, you know that these fictional men are as real as the old geezer who lives next door.

While all the actors are equally good, I found that Leon Ford in the role of young Bill was something of a first among equals. Leon has a sensitive yet commanding presence that made everything he did seem important, even when he was sitting in the background, but he did it in such a way that he never upstaged or overshadowed another actor. He's also a handsome guy, for a redhead. And speaking of handsome, Matthew Newton does a better impression of Leonardo DiCaprio than Leonardo himself. He is earnest yet intelligent, honest yet cunning. And cute. It never hurts to have a bit of eye candy floating around.

Changi is a remarkable piece of television that explains a lot about Australia and Australian men. It's not always pretty and it's not always funny but it's always real. And the next time you see a bunch of fractious old bastards getting pissed at the RSL just remember, they might be the Secret Nine.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence)

Surveillance time

173 minutes (2:53 hours) - Episodes 1-3
165 minutes (2:45 hours) - Episodes 4-6
330 minutes (5:20 hours) - Episodes 1-6

Not for public release in Australia before date

5 November 2001 - Episodes 1-3
3 December 2001 - Episodes 4-6
3 December 2001 - Box Set

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Episode synopses

Episode 1: Seeing is believing

Now a retired property developer, David Collins (Matthew Newton, Bud Tingwell) has never been able to remember all that happened to him as a POW, but as the date for the reunion draws closer, he begins to recall his horrific ordeal. In his first year at camp, David is badly beaten, suffering temporary blindness. Left by the side of the road, he is picked up by Japanese guards taking a group of hapless locals to be shot.

Episode 2: Gordon's will

As an old man, Gordon (Anthony Hayes, Frank Wilson) is the victim of a stroke that paralyses him down one side. His condition reminds Gordon of the time in Changi when he refused to salute Lieutenant Aso, forcing a major confrontation. Aso places Gordon on a box in the middle of the compound and tries, with a series of increasingly violent acts, to make him salute. Gordon's mates devise a plan to save their friend and make a bit on the side at the same time.

Episode 3: Private Bill

On his final day as a university professor, Bill Dwyer (Leon Ford, Terry Norris) is visited by a young student who looks remarkably like thegirl he fell in love with before the war. He begins to reminisce with her about his missing years in Changi, telling her about the time he and his mates got their own back on the Japanese, the day the camp was visited by a General.

Episode 4: Curley

As he practices for his impending driving test, old Curley (Mark Priestley, Slim De Grey), is thrown into a panic by an impatient driver behind him. His mind returns to Changi and the time he was caught stealing food. Thrown into "the hole" and left to rot in the dark for six weeks, Curley must try not to lose his mind, while his mates desperately think of a way to give him hope.

Episode 5: Eddie's birthday

On his 78th birthday, Eddie (Stephen Curry, Bill Kerr) is giving himself his traditional birthday shave, when his jaw begins to ache. He finds himself thinking back to his final year in Changi, when his wisdom tooth became infected and he unwillingly attracted the attention of the violent and malicious Captain Shindo.

Episode 6: Pacifying the angels

For Tom (Matthew Whittet, Desmond Kelly), the prospect of the forthcoming reunion is a mixed blessing: he loves seeing his old mates, but hates where they take him - back to the last night of the war.

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