In January 1879, the British launched a war against the Zulu nation of South Africa, expecting that their well-trained and -equipped armies would have an easy time. An army of some 1,350 soldiers was engaged by the Zulu warriors at Isandlwana and almost completely annihilated. Following this victory, the Zulus moved back along the British path to a small supply station at Rorke's Drift, which contained a good deal of supplies and some 150 British soldiers. Over the day and night of Wednesday, 22 January 1879, and into the following morning, the Zulus launched attack after attack against the small garrison, but were unable to overcome its defenses and finally retired to Zulu land. The British public, hungry for heroes in the aftermath of Isandlwana, were overjoyed at this plucky action, and some eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to defenders of Rorke's Drift. This is their story.
OK, as always with Hollywood, you must accept that history will be changed to make it more "interesting," and this movie is no exception. However, that said, this is a great movie, with lots of great action and heroism. I liked that while the British were portrayed as heroic (with just enough human weakness thrown in) the Zulus were also portrayed as disciplined warriors, honorable and brave. The cast is wonderful, with Nigel Green doing an excellent job of portraying Colour Sgt. Bourne with a great mix of almost superhuman soldiering and vulnerable humanity. And, I must add, that the scenery was excellent, helping to make this movie a real extravaganza.
So, if you are looking for a clear-eyed and realistic recreation of the 1879 battle of Rorke's Drift, you will need to look elsewhere. But, if you are looking for a movie of Victorian-era colonial warfare, with action, heroism and lots of gunfire, then this is the movie for you. I love it!