A small contingent of British soldiers stationed at a mission in Africa is ordered to stand their ground against an enormous Zulu army.
Zulu is an old school war film concerned with the courage of ordinary soldiers fighting shoulder to shoulder against overwhelming odds. It also goes to great pains to avoid demonising the Zulu nation, showing them as brave and cunning warriors in a similar way to John Ford’s cavalry films and their depiction of native Americans. The story does not shy away from showing the appalling loss of life and has an understated yet strong anti-war message as a result. Although the film is essentially one long battle sequence, things are kept interesting by the diverse set of interesting characters; notably the class tensions between Stanley Baker’s pragmatic engineer and Michael Caine’s upper class fop who proves his mettle under fire, as well as rebellious malingerer and petty thief Private Hook who is a lot more brave and resourceful than he cares to admit.
The battle itself is shown on an epic scale and is complemented by a rousing score from John Barry making for a stirring tale of derring-do made all the more powerful by the fact that that the characters and events are all, in fact, true.