Attack Force Z (alternatively titled The Z Men) is a 1982 Australian World War II film, directed by Tim Burstall. It is based on an actual event that took place during World War II, and was shot in Taiwan in 1980. It was screened at the Cannes Film Festival on 18 May 1981.
The film is noted for starring Mel Gibson and Sam Neill, who were relatively unknown (in the U.S) at the time but who went on to become international stars.
Captain P.G. Kelly (Gibson) leads a team from the elite Z Special Unit. Z Special Unit often known as Z Force, was a joint Australian, British and New Zealand commando unit, which saw action against the Empire of Japan during World War II. Its main brief was for reconnaissance and sabotage, today its role is taken by the Special Air Service Squadrons of Australia and New Zealand respectively.
In the Straits of Sembaleng, five men are dispatched by submarine in kayaks to rescue survivors of a shot-down plane on a nearby island which is occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. Led by Paul Kelly (Gibson), an inexperienced commando officer, the team secretly lands on the island and hides their kayaks. As they venture in land, Ted ‘Kingo’ King is hit by fire from an unseen machine gun post, the team quickly eliminates the Japanese defenders and return to their wounded comrade. King has been hit on the leg, the bullet smashing his kneecap. Since King can’t walk and if he was left to the Japanese he would tortured then executed, Kelly authorises fellow Australian Dan Costello to kill King humanely. The four remaining men return to their search, coming across a rice farmer they learn of the area in which the plane crashed. But as they near their destination they come across a Japanese squad at a local house, after the Japanese leave they enter the house and meet the local resistance leader Lin, his grown up daughter Chien Hua and her younger brothers and sisters. With a guide to lead them to the plane, they head off to the plane but are attacked by Japanese soldiers at a Buddhist Temple. Separated from the rest interpreter Jan Veitch ends up returning to Lin’s house only for him to be hidden by Chien Hua from the returning Japanese. After the deaths of their soldiers the Japanese officers Watanabe and Imanaka torture Chien for telling them the location of her father, but Chien Hua refuses. Only for Lin’s son Shaw Hu tell the Japanese that Lin, the Z men and the planes survivors are heading for the islands capital (but it is false information). All the Japanese leave except for two soldiers guarding Chien Hua which Veitch kills with help of Shaw Hu.
Meanwhile within sight of the plane Kelly watches as locals blow up the wreckage. Lin is evasive and after quizzing the inhabitants of a village between the plane and them, the team head on to the plane. Kelly manages to get Lin to tell them that the two survivors are being taken to his home, so they turn around and head back. In the capital Veitch is led to the survivors. One of them is a defecting Japanese government official Imoguchi, and he is believed to hold a secret that could end the war faster. Only Kelly knows he must be rescued at any cost or killed. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall together, Kelly must persuade his own men that Imoguchi is worth rescuing and the local resistance that it is worth fighting against their Japanese enemies.