Director: Randall Wallace
Release Date: March 01, 2002
Rating: R (for sustained sequences of graphic war violence, and for language)
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Oh no, not another Gibson war movie!
That's what I said going to the theatre to watch We Were Soldiers. From the preview it appears to be another Gibson-plays-the-nice-guy flick in which he loses someone close to him, and then goes to war out of revenge and the name of freedom.
But that is far from what this movie is. My second thought was...
Oh no, not another Vietnam war movie!
After a while, most Vietnam movies are hard to distinguish from each other. We already know that the story is about a bunch of guys (one Southerner, one black guy, one tough guy, and that nerd with the glasses) in some random battle in Vietnam trying to find sanity in a war no one understands.
We Were Soldiers is not that same movie.
Based on the book We Were Soldiers... and Young by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Gallaway, this movie comes across as original and true to life. Moore commanded the United States Army's First Battalion of the Seventh Calvary during the ill-fated 1965 battle at Ia Drang (pronounced Eye-Drang) Valley in Vietnam. Galloway was a noncombatant civilian journalist who was forced to drop his camera and pick up a rifle in order to stay alive.
Keeping it real without computer animation
We Were Soldiers sticks with the theme of showing the 'true" brutality of war that was started by Saving Private Ryan. Along with the continual bullets whizzing and blood splattering are some very intense scenes, including a man's face burning with shrapnel and another man's charred skin peeling off. These images will make the toughest of stomachs churn, so unless you're going with someone who can take it, this is not a date movie.
These scenes along with all of the explosions, airplanes, and helicopters were done without the benefit of computers. Nowadays, this is a unique approach to a big budget movie like We Were Soldiers, and it paid off. The entire movie has a feel of realness that might have been lost with the use of computer animation.
Don't forget the family
Another aspect that is usually skipped in Vietnam War movies is the family who is at home. We Were Soldiers follows the lives of the soldiers' wives very closely. You see the troops interacting with their families before they leave for battle and the film doesn't forget to show the home front while the battle rages.
This is the first time I've felt for those who are at home during wars. There was not a dry eye in the house when telegrams were being delivered to the wives of the troops notifying them of their deaths.
Superb character building
This all leads into one of the best aspects of the movie: the actual characters. Typically in war movies, the viewer barely has anytime to get to know the characters before they are thrown into a battle and killed. This makes it very easy not to care about the people dying.
We Were Soldiers did a superb job of building the characters up and letting the audience become attached to them. Even throughout the chaos of battle, there was no confusion trying to figure out who was who among the shaven heads.
No political message?
The movie ends on a positive note without the typical message given by Vietnam War movies of "We shouldn't have been there", "The politicians screwed it all up", etc. Instead, this film's purpose was to tell the story of the first battle of Vietnam and the people who were involved both on the front and at home. Mission accomplished.
We Were Soldiers is a unique movie and will quickly become a war classic, but I do suggest not seeing it if you are very sensitive to extreme violence.
We Were Soldiers Official Website