We Were Soldiers Reviews
I'm a huge fan of war movies and there has been some truly amazing , brillant war movies but i don't think this one is up to scratch.
Mel Gibson credibly conveys the tortured nobility of a leader who recognises the heavy responsibility of charisma. The storytelling here is powerful and unforgettable, the tone Shakespearean.
You wanna know why I watched this film in the first place, 7 years ago? Because of the helicopters. Not because of Mel Gibson or the genre, I do like war films like any other guy, but only because of the choppers. Sadly Mel Gibson is babbling about patriotic and heroicly foolish things almost constantly, but where's my goddamn choppers! I thought this movie was supposed to be about how the US Army started to customize and use MedEvac choppers for infantry transports to hot zones, but all it is, is just another movie that tries too much to be powerful and moving.
Considering that Randall Wallace, who wrote 'Pearl Harbor' a year earlier, was involved with the film should've had me on alert status. But he has also written 'Braveheart', which is one of my all-time favourites so I had to give it a shot. So now we have, as examples. one great film and one of the worst films ever made. Were does 'We Were Soldiers' belong?
"I'll never forgive myself.
- For what, sir?
That my men... That my men died and I didn't."
After all the basic training in the movie has been given and the troops are transported to "The Valley of Death" for combat, the film does give some nice battle scenes. Especially the napalm scene where the flesh of the bodies is being ripped off when the medics try to evacuate them. Gory as hell and, yes... effective. The battle scenes are almost too frantic for my taste. Some of the soldiers seem to have some kind of supersenses, they always know where the enemies are and shoot highly accurate shots when they're under pressure and when visibility is nonexistent. Guess the US Army's training is much more on a higher level then other nations armies...
The acting is.. well, highly overrated. Mel Gibson, in my opinion, does one of his worst performances I've seen and Sam Elliott, as the obligatory NCO, non-commissioned officer, is grunting through the whole movie and showing these rookies how to fight. With a pistol. You see, he doesn't believe in assault rifles... And talking about obligatory characters, there has to be a proper, heroic young officer, like Chris Klein's character, who has a beautiful wife and a child on the way to bring drama to the movie.
So, where does 'We Were Soldiers' belong? It's highly patriotic and religious, with lots of dramatic scenes that tend to go a bit over the top, some nifty battle scenes but to be honest, films like these are in the end very mediocre and instantly forgettable. There's so much better Vietnam movies available ('Platoon') so if you tend to get sick watching melodramatic war movies where God is a greater support to troops then the artillery or the Air Force, you might wanna skip this one.
As a war movie, this was breathtaking, showing heroism on the part of soldiers, which is what war movies do. The ending where Kinnear shows up and zaps the North Vietnamese with Gatling guns. Where were these guns before? The artillery did a great job, and the ability to call in air strikes almost instantaneously was amazing. In the story arc, it was interesting to contrast the Mel Gibson plan, which he learned from the French who did it wrong by being passive, to take the battle to the enemy when they least expect it. If we had not given up politically, we could have won the war in Vietnam. Sam Elliott was his usual great gruff self. Mel was often melodramatic and the women back home were stereotypes and Madeleine Stowe had the world's biggest lips.
Anyway, after checking out IMDB, I came to dig out several interesting facts about this movie, which were kind of fun to contemplate and digest. For one thing, it was written and directed by Randall Wallace, who is actually the man behind the screenplay for Braveheart (an achievement for which I will always be eternally grateful). This would probably explain why Mel Gibson was chosen for the lead role. Another fun fact is that Randall Wallace has also written the screenplay for Pearl Harbor. Now how in the world one and the same person could write both Braveheart and Pearl Harbor is beyond me. It's just one of those great mysteries of life I guess, and an ironic one at that. I'm glad though that We Were Soldiers didn't suffer the same shameful fate, because when all is said and done, this was yet another good movie for Mr.Wallace to take pride in.
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The opening chunk of 'We Were Soldiers' concerns the domestic side of the soldiers. Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) is a man of great honor and battlefield heroics complete with five kids and a determined and loving wife Julie (Madeleine Stowe). Does anyone have any problems identifying the hero yet? Moore has been commanded to assemble an inexperienced band of soldiers and mold them into the 7th Cavalry division. His men include new father Lt. Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), helicopter pilot Maj. Bruce Crandall (Greg Kinnear) and grizzled veteran Sgt.-Maj. Basil Plumley (Sam Elliott). They've been called in to be apart of one of the first strikes of the Vietnam War in 1965. Gibson rallies the troops and they head toward the East. What followed could be deemed a suicide mission as the 7th Cavalry and other divisions were surrounded by the advancing Vietcong and fought to the teeth for their survival.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Director Randall Wallace (who last directed and adapted for the screen the Leonardo suck-fest 'Man in the Iron Mask') is a director that doesn't know a thing about subtlety in his mess of patriotism. Wallace just doesn't hammer his points and views; he'll bludgeon you to death with them. Gibson ensures his men that he will be the first one into battle and the last to leave. Sure enough, as the helicopter is setting down we see a big close-up of Gibson's boot hitting the earth and a thunderous echo follows. The point has been made.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Wallace also manages to squeeze in a bit where he can skewer the media. A horde of reporters show up at the end of the battle, ducking at any noise they hear, and stick their mics in Gibson's face asking absurd questions like "How do you feel about the loss of your men?" Oh Wallace, you are such a shrewd satirist.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The violence in the film is incredibly graphic, as with the tradition of most recent war movies like 'Black Hawk Down'. The violence almost reaches a sadistic level where we see slow motion shot after shot of people with a geyser of blood spewing from head wounds. The blood flows freely and often but loses its impact. I would even go as far as saying that much of the violence in 'We Were Soldiers' is overkill under Wallace.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The makeup that accompanies some of the battle wounds is surprisingly disappointing (as is a lot in the film). One character, after an accidental blast from napalm, has half his head looking like a burnt marshmallow. The shoddiness of the look inspires more laughs under your breath than gasps.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The battle of Ia Drang shows reactions from both sides of those fighting. Every now and then the film cuts back to the Vietnamese side in their underground lair. The leadership over explains all their strategic movements in large flailing gestures. It's like a cheap play-by-play for the audience. 'We Were Soldiers' also follows the recent trend of trying to humanize the enemy. But these attempts are easily seen as the hollow politically correct handouts that they are. One scene shows a Vietnamese soldier writing in a book to his honey back home. It's nice to see clichés transcend ethnicity.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The film succumbs to the usual war movie clichés and Hollywood formula. The problem with making a supposed "emotional" Vietnam movie is that the definitive Vietnam movies concerning the madness of battle ('Apocalypse Now' and 'Platoon') and the crippling after-effects ('The Deer Hunter' and 'Born on the Fourth of July') have already been made. 'We Were Soldiers' portrays Vietnam before the politics got in the way and concentrates on the courage of the men who dutifully entered into battle at the heed of their country's call. I can't help but feel that the men who bled and died in that battle don't deserve a better movie.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Gibson as Moore gives a stoic performance and adds a level of humor to the figure, but there's no questioning the mettle of this soldier. Gibson's character is almost an exaggerated propaganda action figure. Moore's courage is unquestionable and that's the way they want it. Madeleine Stowe is a terrific actress but is generally wasted here. Most of the movie she spends her time hugging people while wearing some horrible Cher wig and looking eerily like Hillary Swank in 'The Gift'. Chris Klein looks entirely out of place, as does his wife played by curly-coifed 'Felicity' actress Keri Russell. Greg Kinnear is useless. He spends the entire movie sitting in a helicopter chair barely seen. They could have saved some money and hired an extra.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]'We Were Soldiers' is an okay film but it should have been much more. Gibson elevates what could have been worse but Wallace isn't doing the film any justice. Wallace is too heavy-handed with his direction and flag-waving message and seems to have his film begging to be taken seriously. 'We Were Soldiers' can pass the time all right, but there are better things you could do then watch this force-fed old-fashioned narrative.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nate's Grade: C[/color][/font]