We Were Soldiers
Starring: Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliot, Chris Klein, Keri Russell, Barry Pepper
Director: Randall Wallace (also wrote the screenplay)
MPAA Rating : R (for sustained sequences of graphic war violence and for language)
Plot: We Were Soldiers tells the story of the 1/7th Cavalry’s battle against the 33rd and 66th Regiments of the North Vietnamese Army in November 1965. This battle, the first of the large scale battles between US forces and the NVA changed the war in Vietnam for America.
Notes:The film does an admirable job of showcasing not only the graphic nature of war, in particular, the war in Vietnam, but also the war at home. The characters in We Were Soldiers are based on the real people who fought and died in the Ia Drang Valley in the shadow of Chu Pong Massif.
It’s an unforgiving, and unflinching, look at the early stages of what later became an ambush war.
In many ways, We Were Soldiers is a typical war film. That is, a beleaguered American unit, cutoff from easy resupply, heroically holds on until they can muster their strength and win through. To think this is all this film is, though, is to do it, the cast, the crew, and the men who served in the battle depicted on the screen, a grave disservice.
Soldiers succeeds precisely because it’s a typical war film. The film was released in 2002, in an America still reeling from the September 11th attacks. In that climate of fear, a good rousing war tale of American soldiers besting a tough and powerful enemy is just what was needed.
Beyond that need, though, it remained mostly faithful to the book it is based on. “We Were Soldiers Once. . . And Young” was written by the man who led the 1/7th Cavalry in the Valley of Death, Lieutenant General Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson in the film) and Joseph Galloway (Barry Pepper in the film).
While the film stops short of telling the full story (2/7th Cavalry’s battle at nearby LZ Albany is not covered or mentioned), it does tell in some detail of the heroic struggle the men of the 7th Cavalry went through.
In addition to that, the film has long sequences, perfectly placed throughout, where we see the war at home. Moore’s wife, (played by Madeleine Stowe) faces her own challenges in managing a house with a husband at war and delivering the death notices of the men under her husbands command.
Throughout the film, the actors involved turn in wonderful performances portraying a difficult time in American history. If you are a fan of war films, or you just want to know a little more about the war in Vietnam, you could do a lot worse than to see this film.
My Rating: Excellent. Five Goons out of Five.
I’ve written about this topic before. Click here to read my review of the book “We Were Soldiers Once. . . And Young.”