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We Were Soldiers (2002)
We Were Soldiers (Soundtrack)
We Were Soldiers Once...and Young : Ia Drang : The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (Novel)

We Were Soldiers Review

Directed By: Randall Wallace.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Barry Pepper, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell.

Synopsis: Based on the true story of Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), who led 400 American soldiers into the first bloody battle of the Vietnam War.

Nothing like a nice, light, happy movie you can take the whole family to. This isn't it though.

Randall Wallace makes his directorial debut with this flick and having written and worked on Braveheart with his lead star Mel Gibson must be a bonus because this film is pretty large on scale and tries to cover a lot of material, and for the most part does a solid job. Yes, it suffers from a lot of cliches...but so does life.

The film opens wisely, eleven years before the main battle of the film, showing a massacre of French troops by the Vietnamese which gives us not only a look at war-wise tactics of the Vietnamese army but what Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Gibson) and his men will be up against, and Moore knows it. In fact, Gibson spends a lot of the time concerned he has led his men into a repeat of Custer's last stand, and for most of the war scenes you are inclined to agree.

The sad, inevitable part of We Were Soldiers is the fact that it will be compared, and probably unfavourably so, to Black Hawk Down. There are striking similarities...a battle gone wrong, a seemingly endless barrage of gunfire and death...but Wallace does something that Black Hawk Down could have done to improve itself. It sets up characters, even minor ones with some distinguishing look to let the audience immediately know whom they are watching.

Another nice touch is a lot of the home front is shown, Hal Moore's wife, Julie (played by Madeleine Stowe) ends up handing out the telegrams of dead husbands to their wives on the Army base. Perhaps it seems a little heavy handed and an easy reach for the sympathy strings, but hell this kind of stuff happens. Someone has to deliver the bad news and it is gut-wrenching to watch as Wallace cross-cuts from the battlefield to the handing out of telegrams.

However, there are some flaws here as well, the movie could be trimmed, some sequences run long and a lot of slow-motion with heavy horns and snare drums result in drilling home the same point. War is Hell.

As for the actors, well Chris Klein has such a small part one wonders if he was trimmed down in editing or brought in to bring some teenage appeal to the film. Barry Pepper goes a long way to apologize for his part in the debacle of Battlefield: Earth and Mel Gibson is...Mel Gibson. Say what you want about the man, some say he is more personality than he is actor...I consider the fact that if you can exude a personality at all on film that requires talent. Mel is an under-rated performer with probably one of the best grins in Hollywood. He makes the lighter moments, even under fire in battle, work like so many other actors couldn't.

To tell the truth, save the more gory aspects of the film I was pretty impressed. There are flaws, sure, and there are some pacing problems but overall I thought this was a solid film...hard to watch and not meant for the squeamish but a solid story reasonably well told. That in itself in this day and age is always a nice surprise. Besides, when someone manages to pull a slightly happy...go get 'em ending out of the Vietnam war, the irony of this ending makes it all the more interesting. All in all We Were Soldiers gets three stars out of five from me.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

DVD Information:

Special Features:
Commentary with Director/Writer Randall Wallace
'Getting It Right': Behind-The-Scenes of We Were Soldiers
10 Deleted Scenes with Director's Commentary
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Surround [CC]
FRENCH: Dolby Digital Surround

The DVD Review:
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Evil Ash

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