A Vietnam Veteran Contemplates WE WERE Soldiers (by gftbiloxi)
I live with a Vietnam Vet who served in the late 1960s with 1st Cav. Medivac. During service he earned two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. Since WE WERE SOLDIERS concerns the 1st Cav., Randy wanted to see it. I reluctantly agreed; I am not partial to war films and I dislike Mel Gibson, and Randy is very hard on Vietnam War films. He dismisses PLATOON as a Hollywood 8x10 glossy; says APOCALYPSE NOW is an interesting movie that captures the paranoia, but all the technical details are wrong; and describes DEER HUNTER as excellent in its depiction of the <more>
strangeness of coming home but so full of plot holes that he can hardly endure it. And about one and all he says: "It wasn't like that."He was silent through the film, and when we left the theatre I asked what he thought. He said, "They finally got it. That's what it was like. All the details are right. The actors were just like the men I knew. They looked like that and they talked like that. And the army wives too, they really were like that, at least every one I ever knew." The he was silent for a long time. At last he said, "You remember the scene where the guy tries to pick up a burn victim by the legs and all the skin slides off? Something like that happened to me once. It was at a helicopter crash. I went to pick him up and all the skin just slid right off. It looked just like that, too. I've never told any one about it." In most respects WE WERE SOLDIERS is a war movie plain and simple. There are several moments when the film relates the war to the politics and social movements that swirled about it, and the near destruction of the 1st. Cav.'s 7th Battalion at Ia Drang clearly arises from the top brass' foolish decision to send the 7th into an obvious ambush--but the film is not so much interested in what was going on at home or at the army's top as it is in what was actually occurring on the ground. And in this it is extremely meticulous, detailed, and often horrifically successful. Neither Randy nor I--nor any one in the theatre I could see--was bored by or dismissive of the film. It grabs you and it grabs you hard, and I can easily say that it is one of the finest war movies I have ever seen, far superior to the likes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which seems quite tame in comparison.Perhaps the single most impressive thing about the film is that it never casts its characters in a heroic light; they are simply soldiers who have been sent to do a job, and they do it knowing the risks, and they do it well in spite of the odds. Mel Gibson, although I generally despise him as both an actor and a human being, is very, very good as commanding officer Hal Moore, and he is equaled by Sam Elliot, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, and every other actor on the battlefield. The supporting female cast, seen early in the film and in shorter scenes showing the home front as the battle rages, is also particularly fine, with Julie Moore able to convey in glance what most actresses could not communicate in five pages of dialogue. The script, direction, cinematography, and special effects are sharp, fast, and possess a "you are there" quality that is very powerful.I myself had a criticism; there were points in the film when I found the use of a very modernistic, new-agey piece of music to be intrusive and out of place. And we both felt that a scene near the end of the movie, when a Vietnamese commander comments on the battle, to be improbable and faintly absurd. But these are nit-picky quibbles. WE WERE SOLDIERS is a damn fine movie. I'll give Randy, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the last word: "It may not be 'the' Vietnam movie. I don't think there could ever be 'the' Vietnam movie. But they pretty much get everything right. That's how it looked and sounded, and that's what I saw, and this is the best movie about Vietnam I've ever seen." Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Powerful and moving, not a film for everyone however (by Mike-575)
I was privileged to see a preview of Mel Gibson's new film "We Were Soldiers" based upon the book written by his real life character, Lt. Col. Harold Moore, along with Joe Galloway. I attended a showing along with numerous other Viet Nam vets and it would seem that there were as many opinions about the movie as there were viewers. Like the war itself, each person in attendance probably had some personal experiences that the movie brought back from that deep, and sometimes distant, place we have put them.The movie was almost overwhelmingly graphical, but afterwards I realized <more>
this was instrumental in the telling of the story. For the movie is truly about the leadership that Col. Moore brought to his men of the 1st of the 7th, and his determination that they would not suffer the fate of the French in Viet Nam, nor his own unit's most infamous battle, that of Custer's Stand at Little Big Horn.It was his determination and commitment that his men be as highly trained, as strongly molded as a unit, and most importantly as well lead as possible that stands out. This determination is obviously rooted in his deeply abiding belief that military leaders shall never forget that when they lead men into war, many of those men will never come back alive, but that those who lead shall never abandon them, even in their shared darkest hours.And while the movie highly succeeds in conveying the horror and tragedy that war is....has been...and always shall be, it was more difficult for me to realize that our War Department and Army could have been so callous as to have delegated the responsibility of notifying next-of-kin of the death of their loved ones to the local Yellow Cab company. Then I realized that in late 1965 it was all so new and no one knew that this war was going to grow and consume so many young American lives over the next nine years.The two most significant scenes in the movie for me were firstly, the scene when the course of the battle teeters on the brink of either disaster or success and the most important communication that Col. Moore's superiors have to convey is that General Westmoreland would like for him to leave the battlefield and fly to Saigon so the general can have a briefing. This more than anything pointed out how tragically we were doomed to failure in Viet Nam due to the political will, not the military will, being in control. The second most significant scene was in the airport where one soldier is pushing his buddy through the concourse and the voice over says..."They did not fight for God.....country.....right. They fought for each other", a fact that every Viet Nam vet would attest to.This a movie worth seeing. It is another testament, with a worthy cinematographic effort, to the futility and absurdity of war, and how that among madness can be greatness. It is a movie that will unlikely leave the viewer devoid of emotion. What those emotions may be are as likely to be as highly personal, as the strength of their feeling.
Among the best war films in recent memory (by FlickJunkie-2)
`Saving Private Ryan' redefined the war genre and opened the floodgates to a new generation of war movies. It pushed the boundaries of acceptability by frankly showing war in all its grisly glory. As such it gave us a better understanding of how terrible and frightening war is. `Black Hawk Down' took the graphic violence to a new level, with an intensity that matched the beach landing of SPR, but of a duration that was almost unbearable.`We Were Soldiers' is the latest big budget war offering from Hollywood. In many ways, I consider this to be the most complete of the three. <more>
Writer/Director Randall Wallace who wrote "Braveheart", "Pearl Harbor" and the screenplay for this film , takes the understanding of war to the next level, by offering more than one perspective to the events. Of the three films, this film has the best workup, the best character development, and the most nuanced look at the battle. He brings all the sustained intensity of BHD in the action sequences, but introduces the NVA perspective, the wives' perspective and a far more charismatic and heroic central figure in Lt. Col. Hal Moore.Based on real events, this film shows war as being horrendous and heartless to both sides. It expands outside the combat zone to visit the ramifications on the families as well. The scenes with the wives getting the telegrams are poignant reminders of how war reaches beyond the battlefield. Wallace's treatment grabs us on an emotional level and shocks the senses. Unlike BHD, which presented the characters in a very anonymous way, we come to know these characters and their families and identify with them.Of course, the film lacks the hard edge that would make it starkly believable. It is after all a Hollywood production and not a documentary. However, Wallace pours enough realism into the depictions to assure that this doesn't turn into another sappy melodrama like `Pearl Harbor', which was really nothing more than a romance with a long battle scene in the middle. Wallace finds the optimal balance between engaging storytelling and the brutality of combat.The acting is excellent. Mel Gibson offers the right combination of hard nosed officer and father figure both to his children and his men . Gibson is steadfast and courageous without being harsh. His portrayal of Moore is so well played, so charismatic and heroic, that it is impossible to believe that such a person could actually exist.Sam Elliot follows an outstanding performance in `The Contender' with this gem as Sergeant Major Plumley, the tough as nails warhorse who serves as Moore's non commissioned adjutant. Elliot plays the intransigent career soldier to the hilt, where nothing including life itself is more important than honor and discipline. Barry Pepper also turns in a fine performance as Joe Galloway, the photo journalist who hops on a helicopter to take pictures in the center of the battle and finds himself with a rifle in his hands fighting for his life.This is among the best war films in recent memory and probably the best film on the Vietnam War film since `Full Metal Jacket'. I rated it a 10/10. This film is not for everyone. It contains graphic violence and disturbingly realistic battle scenes. It is a gripping and distressing film that should be required viewing for statesmen and generals alike.
John Wayne wishes he made this movie (by grafspee2)
In the tradition of such war film classics as The Bridges at Toko Ri, To Hell and Back well as John Wayne's The Green Berets is this seemingly out of place epic with the amount of cynical pestilence abound.The pace is lightning fast once the scenes transfer into the early period of the Vietnam war before the public grew impatient. The score of the film is often overlooked but in this case it provides plenty of emotion especially as the 7th Regiment assembles for the trip to South Vietnam beneath the radio towers late at night.Of a forgotten battle with unknown heroes for both forces this <more>
is a great war movie that should be a lesson for future productions.
"We Were Soldiers" is based on a real life battle of the Viet Nam war that took place in 1965 in a remote part of Viet Nam. It is based on a book by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway who are portrayed in the film by Mel Gibson and Barry Pepper respectively. The film opens with a depiction of the 1954 slaughter of French troops by the Vietnamese army. Twenty one years later Lt. Col Moore Gibson and his battalion of 395 men are thrust unknowingly into the same hornet's nest consisting of some 4,000 battle hardened Viet Nam regulars who have been fighting their enemies for <more>
many years. Director Randall Wallace tells the story from three perspectives. Firstly from the viewpoint of the Americans. Outnumbered ten to one they face impossible odds. How Col. Moore rallies his troops and gets them to pull together as a team is a central theme of the picture. Secondly, the story is told from the viewpoint of the wives and families left behind and the problems they have to deal with. Lastly, the Vietnamese army is shown not as unfeeling monsters, but as a professional army defending their beliefs and territory. The battle scenes are as realistic and convincing as any war movie that you will ever see. We suffer through the casualties both on the battlefield and at home along with the participants. The special effects are seamless and exciting. Mel Gibson gives a convincing performance as Moore and if you watch the DVD, you can see the amazing similarities between the two men. Madeleine Stowe plays Julie Moore and Keri Russell plays Barbara Geoghegan two of the wives who take on the unenviable task of delivering those dreaded telegrams to the widows from the War Department. Chris Klein plays Russell's husband Jack a new officer and father. His scene with Gibson in the base chapel is memorable. Greg Kinnear plays Captain Crandall the head of Moore's helicopter fleet. Don Duong is very effective as the Vietnamese commander. But acting cudos go to veteran Sam Elliot as the crusty Sgt. Major Plumley. "We Were Soldiers" is a gripping Viet Nam war drama told in a way that reflects ALL of the participants in an impartially realistic way. As Hank Moore says on the DVD, They finally got it right.
I took four teenage boys to see this movie. They said this is thefirst movie about Vietnam that portrayed our soldiers as good men similar in age, with the same hopes and fears, and not a bunch of drug addicted babykillers. I wish they would show this movie to all brainwashed high school kids.
Violence Overdone, But Still A Solid War Movie (by ccthemovieman-1)
Although still a solid war movie, it wasn't up to my expectations, although it's still a "keeper" in my collection. With the cast, and hype of this film at the time of its release, I excepted something more, something akin to Saving Private Ryan.....but it wasn't to be. Even though the latter is known for its graphic violence, it's this film that I thought the violence was overdone, not SPR. The action here doesn't start for 40 minutes, but when it does it loud, it's heavy and it's continuous over most of the next 95 minutes.Shorter periods of the violent <more>
scenes would have made this much better, maybe even an "excellent" film."We Were Soldiers" had things I appreciated that are rare in today's action films: 1 - a pro-military film concerning a Viet Nam war battle; 2- fairly tame language. This is not pro-Viet Nam War. Hollywood would never do that, but at least it shows the soldiers in a solid, valiant light. It's also refreshing to see good references to God and prayer. Mel Gibson's character here is a decent Catholic. Greg Kinnear is solid, too, as the helicopter pilot and Madeline Stowe had a memorable scene delivering message of war deaths to their spouses. That was touching stuff. But, mostly, this is an action film and the battle scenes are gruesome at times, particularly near the end of the film.
Finally, somebody got it right about Vietnam! (by TOMASBBloodhound)
Over the years, the movie going public has been subjected to film after film after film about the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, most of them are largely philosophical and don't paint the American soldier in a very positive light. The film makers usually take a leftist position towards the government and try to use the conflict on the ground as some sort of metaphor for the existential purpose of life. Thus, we get subjected to films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Casualties of War. Although those film makers are certainly free to show us these interpretations of Vietnam, it gets old <more>
seeing our military trashed and our brave soldiers painted as drugged up sadists who were fighting for an immoral cause.From the beginning, you could tell We Were Soldiers is something different. It clearly shows the American soldier as what he/she usually is: Professional, brave, intelligent, and resourceful. There are no higher moral questions draped over this film. We simply see war as what it truly is. It is a conflict built up in the minds of our governments and carried out on the battlefield by our soldiers. Nothing more. Nothing less. Ultimately it is just about the man next to you and the men you're fighting against. We Were Soldiers focuses on this and this alone. The Ia Drang battle scenes which take up most of the screen time are ferocious. Mel Gibson shines as Col. Moore. He is the ultimate personification of masculinity. He ignores repeated requests for him to leave the battlefield as his troops are cut off and outnumbered. He seems to take the loss of each man personally as each commander should do. The combat footage is very graphic. This is not a film for those with weak stomachs. This film also gives us another thing other Vietnam War films are reluctant to even touch. It shows us behind the scenes footage of the North Vietnamese Army planning their assaults and evaluating American tactics. It's about time some movie showed the human side to the NVA. They are usually portrayed as heartless, soul-less savages. This is ridiculous. They were family men who took just as much pride in a job well done as our own troops. We Were Soldiers is an experience you won't soon forget. It is the pinnacle of what a war film should be. Not much time wasted on politics or existential philosophy. It is simply a graphic a realistic portrayal of war. For the soldiers on the battlefield, it isn't a matter of politics or a question of should we be here or not. What it comes down to is this: you have to kill your enemy or he will kill you!4 1/2 of 5 starsSo sayeth the Hound.
Into the heart of a movie battle like no other (by hall895)
It is hard to stand out and be a unique war film. They've been making war films pretty much since the invention of film it seems. So you would think by now that it's all been done before, and for the most part it has. Yet We Were Soldiers manages to separate itself from the pack and give us a unique take on one particular battle in one particular war. Depicted here is the first major battle involving American troops in the Vietnam War. The fact that this battle takes place in what is known as the Valley of Death tells you all you need to know about what awaits the men who head into <more>
combat.The central figure in the movie is Lt. Col Hal Moore, played by Mel Gibson. Moore, leading the 7th Cavalry, will train his men and lead them into whatever hell awaits them. The film begins back home as Moore assembles his new unit and begins to whip them into shape. Here we learn much about what makes Hal Moore tick and begin to see him for the true leader of men he is. These opening scenes are important as they show many of Moore's motivations and also the obstacles which are placed in his way. The time back home also allows us to see Moore the family man with his strong, stoic wife, played by Madeline Stowe, and their young children. We also meet other key characters. There is Moore's second-in-command, battle-tested Sgt. Maj. Plumley, played with wonderful gruffness and all the appropriate seriousness by Sam Elliott. There is helicopter pilot Bruce Crandall, played by Greg Kinnear, and young Lt. Jack Geoghegan, played, surprisingly well for someone who came to prominence in a silly farce like American Pie, by Chris Klein. But the key figure throughout is undeniably Moore and Gibson's strong, confident portrayal is a key to the movie's success.While important in establishing the key characters and the emotional ties that bind them to each other and those whom they are leaving behind, the opening scenes back home have a feeling of just biding time about them. The film really takes off when the 7th Cavalry is dropped into the Valley of Death and confronts the overwhelming enemy force which awaits them. The rest of the film deals with this one epic, unrelenting battle. It sounds clichéd but the battle scenes are so well choreographed and photographed that you do truly feel as if you are there. The intensity of the conflict jumps off the screen. The focus is on the valor and heroism of the American soldiers but unlike so many war films which present a nameless, faceless enemy we also get to see things from the Vietnamese perspective. We see the enemy leaders detailing their strategy and also are presented with reminders that the Americans are not the only ones with loving, concerned families back home. We see the toll on both sides, not just for the soldiers but perhaps most poignantly in scenes inter-cut from home where soldiers' wives wait to learn the fates of the men they love.We Were Soldiers is a brutally honest, unflinching look at the hell that is war. It is a story which begged to be told. Seeing as it is adapted from a book by two of the central figures in the conflict, Hal Moore and reporter Joe Galloway who found himself thrust into the middle of the conflict and who is played wonderfully by Barry Pepper in the film you can rest assured that unlike so many other war films this one would focus on "getting it right." The film tells it as it truly was. It is at times invigorating and inspiring and at other times truly heartbreaking. All in all it is a fitting tribute to, as the film states at the beginning, the men on both sides who died in that place.