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MatchFlick Member Reviews
We Were Soldiers
1 review

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Randall Wallace

Written By:
Randall Wallace

Cast:
Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell, Barry Pepper, Don Duong, Ryan Hurst, Marc Blucas, Jsu Garcia, Clark Gregg, Desmond Harrington, Blake Heron, Dylan Walsh, Erik MacArthur, Robert Bagnell, Jon Hamm, Josh Daugherty

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We Were Soldiers (2002)
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Movie Review by David Hurlbert
April 30th, 2007

We Were Soldiers (2002) is a compelling and powerful movie based on a true story that salutes the honor and integrity of all our warriors – sons husbands, fathers, grandsons, and brothers – and all those men and women who have sacrificed their lives, limbs, and love ones in all wars in general and the Vietnam War in particular. From the director of The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and the screenwriter of movies like Pearl Harbor (2001) and Braveheart (1995), Randall Wallace captures one of his career masterpieces in this movie while remaining very faithful to the story.

As a veteran, I was impressed by this director's obvious restraint. While visually very powerful, he could have easily employed more of the special effects so many directors seem unable to resist today. Instead, he relies on strong performances from his cast in a story that is truly extraordinary and does not need any embellishments.

Based on Lt. General Hal Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young," this movie chronicles the events of the first major battle in the Vietnam War where United States soldiers and North Vietnamese Regulars clashed in a bloody engagement in November 1965. This battle takes place in a small clearing in Vietnam called Landing Zone X-Ray, a lonely piece of soil where Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and his 450 warriors of the 7th Cavalry face an almost expected annihilation as they are surrounded by 2,000 enemy soldiers. Outnumbered almost 5 to 1, this horrific three day battle is among the most savage engagements in our country's history. The battle in the Ia Drang Valley is, by the standards of heroism, equal to the battle of Fort Sumter where America's most tragic conflict ignited.

How these men courageously persevered makes a vivid portrait of war at its most inspiring. The film also focuses on the families of the soldiers who fought there and illustrates the valor of the UH-1 helicopter pilots who were an integral part of these operations. Similarly, it focuses on the human side of the enemy and illustrates their bravery and suffering as well. With that being said, I appreciate the films theme of being a thank you to our Vietnam warriors. Furthermore, I am happy to know that there is finally a Vietnam War movie that illustrates our veterans in a positive light. I am honestly sick of Hollywood focusing on the exception instead of the rule of war with portrayals of our warriors during Vietnam as deserters and demented assassins of our own soldiers as in Apocalypse Now (1979); inhuman murderers and baby killers as in Platoon (1986); ignorant psychopaths and drug abusers as in Full Metal Jacket (1987); and all suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder as in The Deer Hunter (1978).

Although the entire cast from Mel Gibson to Josh Daugherty gives excellent and believable performances that are seamless, accurate portrayals of courage and dedication to duty, some critics complain about the clichés. For those of us who have been warriors or spent time on or near the military, you know that clichés are very much a real part of military life. You also know that most Sergeant Majors act exactly like Sam Elliott did in his portrayal of SGM Basil Plumley. In fact, he captures with perfection the very attitude, essence, and demeanor of the typical senior NCO.

There are very few errors in this movie and only one that deserves mention. Taxis drivers never have delivered next-of-kin death notices of our fallen warriors for the military. In all such cases, a military Chaplain, accompanied by a company grade officer, deliver these notices to family members as a supportive team. Despite this major flaw, this is a realistic movie that is extraordinary because it emotionally captures the audience and holds them hostage on the edge of their seats with a graphic, grizzly, powerful, and exhausting true story.

I cannot promise that everyone will find this movie to be as emotionally moving as I did, but I can claim with certainty that veterans in general and combat warriors in particular will all very likely be touched to tears. By the movie's end, I was squeezed dry of all my tears and this is a better testament to the authenticity of this film as anything I can write here.

Beyond this remarkable story, this film reinforces a valuable lesson that many Americans either appear to have forgotten or have difficulty understanding. Specifically, war requires sacrifice. And since war will always be a part of nature, some – and in most cases only a few for the many – will always be called upon to make this sacrifice. Whoever these individuals are, let us all hope that they are all very well-trained; deeply and respectfully appreciated; adequately supplied, equipped, and supported; and damn good at it! Those who have never made such a sacrificed, be thankful, but never believe that war is absurd and we can all be friends by loving our neighbors.

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Tim
May 1, 2007 1:57 AM
 
Your reviews are flawless , you are a very good writer. I totally agree with you about this film it should have recieved much more recognition!
David Hurlbert
May 8, 2007 5:05 PM
 
[comment deleted by David Hurlbert]
David Hurlbert
May 8, 2007 5:06 PM
 
Thanks Tim. I truly appreciate your remarks.



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