We Were Soldiers

2002

We Were Soldiers

Critics Consensus

The war cliches are laid on a bit thick, but the movie succeeds at putting a human face on soldiers of both sides in the Vietnam War.

63%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 146

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 203,135
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We Were Soldiers Photos

Movie Info

A fact-based tale of men under fire, their common acts of uncommon valor, and their loyalty to and love for one another during one of the most savage military battles in U.S. history. On November 14, 1965, in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, in a small clearing called Landing Zone X-Ray, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and 400 troopers from the U.S. 7th Air Cavalry are surrounded by 2000 enemy soldiers in what would become the first, and perhaps the worst, major battle of the Vietnam War.

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Cast

Mel Gibson
as Lt. Col. Moore
Sam Elliott
as Plumley
Greg Kinnear
as Crandall
Chris Klein
as Geoghegan
Barry Pepper
as Galloway
Keri Russell
as Barbara
Ryan Hurst
as Savage
Marc Blucas
as Herrick
Josh Daugherty
as Ouellette
Edwin Morrow
as Godboldt
Don Duong
as Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu Ahn
Michael White
as SFC Haffner
Mark McCracken
as Ed `Too Tall' Freeman
Tim Abell
as Army Intel Officer
Vincent Agnell
as Doc Carrara
Dan Beene
as Cab Driver
Luke Benward
as David Moore
Sean Bunch
as Trooper No. 4
Brian Carpenter
as Robert McNamara
Doug C. Cook
as Capt. Ray Lefebvre
Alan Dale
as Westmoreland
Brendan Ford
as Jump Coordinator
Michael Giordani
as French Lieutenant
Clark Gregg
as Capt. Metsker
Jim Grimshaw
as Gen. Kinnard
Jon Hamm
as Capt. Dillon
Joseph Hieu
as NVA Major
Vien Hong
as Mr. Nik
Nicholas Hosking
as French Captain
Jonathan Parks Jordan
as White Private
Derrell Keith Lester
as Black Private
Simba Khali
as Alma Givens
Shepard Koster
as Reporter No. 1
Matthew Lang
as Lt. John Arrington
Maia Lien
as Army Wife
Kate Lombardi
as Reporter No. 2
Matt Mangum
as Private Soprano
Joshua McLaurin
as Greg Moore
Sloane Momsen
as Cecile Moore
Taylor Momsen
as Little Julie Moore
Steven Nelson
as Charlie Lose
Randy Oglesby
as Lt. Col. List
Jay Powell
as Sergeant
Lee Reynolds
as Chopper Crew
John Paul Rice
as Pvt. John Perry
Daniel Roebuck
as Medivak C.O.
Forry Smith
as Sgt. Palmer
Patrick St. Esprit
as General No. 2
Keith Szarabajka
as Diplomatic Spook
Brian Tee
as Nakayama
Keni Thomas
as Sergeant
Billinjer C. Tran
as Viet Minh St.
Joseph Tran
as NVA Prisoner
Dylan Walsh
as Capt. Edwards
Devon Werkheiser
as Steve Moore
Bellamy Young
as Cathy Metsker
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Critic Reviews for We Were Soldiers

All Critics (146) | Top Critics (39)

  • We Were Soldiers is, ultimately, a powerful and moving experience--once it overcomes its clunky, badly written and cliched first act.

    Aug 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Probably the best thing you can say about We Were Soldiers is that it does justice to an awful conflict.

    Jul 20, 2002 | Rating: 3/4
  • The Vietnam setting looks authentic enough, but the action is as inert and unpersuasive as Gibson's attempt to fashion Bill Mauldin poetry out of his $20-million-plus smirk.

    Jun 1, 2002
  • Makes you cry for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who died so pointlessly with Geoghegan. And their orphans.

    Mar 22, 2002 | Full Review…

    David Edelstein

    Slate
    Top Critic
  • As I settled into my World War II memories, I found myself strangely moved by even the corniest and most hackneyed contrivances.

    Mar 14, 2002 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • After suffering through We Were Soldiers, I think I've seen all the war movies I care to endure for quite some time.

    Mar 13, 2002

    Rex Reed

    Observer
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for We Were Soldiers

  • Jan 20, 2018
    I forgot how good this film was a war film. It should the human side of the Vietnam War and the tragic and unnecessary loss of life involved. With a great performance from Mel Gibson to boot. A very underrated classic that is both gripping and enthralling.
    Ian W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2015
    A really well made movie about the war in Viatnam, It does justice in remembering those who lost their lives in battle with a very gripping and emotional film, The film itself is just one giant battle and it's very well done and very realistic, Some of the best war action scenes in film even by today's films, Mel Gibson was great but the best performances were from the wives of the soldiers that made us feel their loss with some great acting, Overall it's very underrated, Very action packed but it's about more than just the action and should be rememberd that way.
    Jamie C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 01, 2014
    It's "Braveheart II", or "The Patriot II", or something, because this is Mel Gibson back to being a man of honor and heart... until you cross him, at which point, he'll show you just how much heart you have, literally. William Wallace is back, and this time, he's taking on Vietnam, y'all! I joke but this film is co-produced, directed and written by Randall Wallace, who actually wrote "Braveheart", but just wrote, so here, he can really bring life to his bloody set pieces. Well, actually, I'd expect William Wallace in 'Nam to be less brutal than "Braveheart", because Mel Gibson seems to have a greater taste for war gore as a filmmaker than anyone, as you can tell by the war films she chooses to act in, alone. If anyone knows how to be patriotic and violent at the same time, it's Mel Gibson, so I'm going to go ahead and call bull on the title saying that he and his buddies "were" soldiers, because Gibson shan't retire his career in the movie military until he's in an Australian war film. I'm at least glad that they trimmed down the novel's title of "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young", because it's awkward enough when you take out of account that Sam Elliott has pretty much never been young, and that Madeleine Stowe will probably never get old. Now that is one pretty lady, and I wish there was a little more of her here, because things get a little dull when we're not seeing her face... or seeing someone else's face get blown off, for although the film is decent, excitement is not too much more limited than censorship here. Well, I exaggerate the degree to which this film dries up when Randall Wallace's storytelling dips both into thoughtfulness and in material, but make no mistake, there are some surprisingly limp slow spells here which really defuse momentum through a certain, sometimes almost dull tonal chilling which is all too often broken by extremes. Quite frankly, among the most extreme issues with this film is sentimentality that is sometimes surprisingly overbearing with its abused of thematic visuals and near-cloying scoring in order to craft abrasive moments in tone which range from unnerving to almost embarrassingly sappy, and are made all the more aggravating from a trite sense which derives from formulaic storytelling. Rotten Tomatoes' consensus boasts that the "war clich[é]s are laid on a bit thick", but, in my opinion, they would be greater were it not for some potentially refreshing elements that, as cruel irony would have it, also make it all the more difficult to ignore the genericisms which do stand, and firm I might add, cheesing a few things up with clichéd dialogue and character types, and further retarding dramatic momentum by establishing a sense of predictability. It's not especially hard to tell where the drama is heading, so it's hard to justify the final product's taking too long to reach its expected points, because, at 139 minutes, this surprisingly minimalist war flick makes those aforementioned dry spells all the more detrimental to a sense of momentum by slowing things down, even in a script that particularly gets overdrawn with, of all things, its action sequences, which go on for so long that, despite the adequate dynamicity, monotony sets in to further water down dramatic kick. Of course, the fat around the edges go beyond the action, because when the film gets back to plot, it gets mighty carried away, slowly, but surely packing on layer upon layer, and subplot upon subplot, to the point of focal inconsistencies and even a hint of convolution, and the more the film tries to beef things up, the thinner a sense of meat gets. The film kicks off with a very promising development segment that draws plenty of intriguing aspects which could have gone into making a gripping opus, but once the body is reached, oddly enough, genuine dramatic value dips, never lost, but nonetheless in a manner that would be hard enough for Randall Wallace to compensate for, without all of the slow spells, overwrought sentimentality, genericisms and excess in action and plotting that drive the final product short of rewarding. The film could have been very underwhelming, if not worse, it gets so flimsy at times, and yet, with all my complaints about misguided overambition and lazy missteps, there are plenty of strengths, perhaps even conceptual intrigue fit for a more rewarding drama. Spreading focus among various military men, and even touching upon the struggles of military wives back home, yet still rather thin in scale once it reaches an arguably overly action-oriented body, this film's story concept is simultaneously overblown and minimalist, and not even particularly refreshing, but it's hard to not pay respects to this idea for all of the layers and dramatic and thematic value found in the concept, alone, and done some justice by some commendable aspects in writing. Randall Wallace's efforts, at least as screenwriter, are never too impressive, and really start to go south when the particularly formulaic and excessive body is reached, but the sheer audacity to flesh out this still very rich story is respectable, and when tightness is found in plot structuring and characterization, that's when Wallace truly delivers on glimpses of what could have been. Of course, Wallace's writing would establish these glimpses so clearly if it wasn't for Wallace's efforts as director, which admittedly particularly thrive on technical value, solid scene staging and an audacious, if often overtly disturbing attention to violence that result in some killer action which, for all its excessiveness, is just tight and dynamic enough to entertain, and resonate when accompanied by inspiration in dramatic storytelling. Mind you, when Wallace places his grip on sentimentality, he tends to lose focus on when exactly to stop squeezing, until the film becomes kind of cloying, yet when the orchestration of memorably weighty visuals and Nick Glennie-Smith's trite, but decent score is realized, the resonance is almost piercing in its, as put best by Rotten Tomatoes' consensus, "putting a human face on soldiers of both sides in the Vietnam War". The film is so messy so often, and I hate that, because when the film hits as a drama, it hits hard, with tension and tenderness which fit subject matter of this nature like a glove, and keep a genuine human heart pumping fairly well, though not as much as the characters' portrayals. If nothing else keeps consistent with its effectiveness more-or-less throughout the final product, it is the performances, because just about everyone, at one time or another, shines, whether it be Barry Pepper as a journalist who sees more horror than he ever could have predicted, or Greg Kinnear as a military superior who must be prepared to face tragedy, or Madeleine Stowe as a military wife who must share with her peers news she dreads receiving herself, or the show-stealing Mel Gibson as a good and proud man of honor, brotherhood and war who must lead his men to gruesome dangers, and face the burden of witnessing the devastating aftermath. Gibson and his peers define much of the heart and soul of this drama, but not alone, because no matter how misguided Wallace gets to be, what is done right is done well enough compel reasonably and consistently, if improvably. In the end, when Randall Wallace's directorial tone doesn't dry out, it bombards, with a certain sentimentality that, alongside conventions, excess and unevenness, defuse the final product's momentum, until reward value is lost, all but retained by nonetheless worthy subject matter, well-rounded writing highlights, thrilling action, resonant dramatic highlights, and across-the-board strong performances which make "We Were Soldiers" a plenty decent, if plenty flimsy portrait on the horrors of war. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 27, 2013
    We Were Soldiers is a powerful and gritty war film from writer/director Randall Wallace. Based on a memoir, the story follows the Army's 7th Cavalry as they engage in the first major conflict between American and North Vietnamese forces. The writing is especially good, and does an excellent job at keeping track of the battle and at developing the characters. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Barry Pepper, Madeleine Stowe, and Keri Russell, the performances are quite impressive. And, Wallace does an outstanding job at capturing the brutality of war; giving a remarkably realistic depiction of combat conditions. Additionally, the score perfectly complements the film. Extremely well-made, We Were Soldier delivers an extraordinary look at warfare.
    Dann M Super Reviewer

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