& Crew info:
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore
Major Bruce Crandall
Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley
2nd Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan
Eveleen Bandy, Bruce Davey, William Hoy, Jim Lemley, Danielle
Lemmon, Stephen McEveety, Arne Schmidt, Randall Wallace,
Steve Zapotoczny; Directed and screenwritten by Randall
Wallace; based on the novel "We Were Soldiers
Once... And Young" by Joseph L. Galloway and Harold
War (US); Rated R for sustained sequences
of graphic war violence, and for language; Running Time
- 138 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
March 01, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
hard as it may seem, the big budget Hollywood war film is
on an unfortunate fast track to becoming the latest casualty
of overexposure, joining the ranks of gross-out comedies
and teen slashers as a once-elusive idea that rapidly settles
in as a cliché. What's most unsettling about this
conclusion is the fact that unlike other genres suffering
from overkill, the war movie is timely and valuable to our
society as a whole, representing the immediate wounds inflicted
by gut-wrenching battle that, in ways, can be more damaging
than rewarding to the nations who engage in it. Countless
major movie studios, alas, now only see the financial potential
of ideas like this, and are undermining the essence of it
all with endeavors watered down to a routine level.
Were Soldiers," the latest release of this once-gritty
and realistic genre, is an unfortunate example of taking
the bar of inspiration to an oppressed level of inspiration.
The movie is all formula and no statement; it slaps an obvious
moral situation on top of countless brutal visual sequences
and attempts to pass it off as a distinctive, significant
package. Truth be known, we already know everything that
the movie wants to tell us. That doesn't mean it shouldn't
be admired for trying, but what did the filmmakers here
honestly think they could add to an already-crowded motion
picture genre that has repeatedly made its statement loud
movie stars Mel Gibson as Lieutenant Colonel Moore, a high-profile
family man who, in the early scenes of the film, is preparing
to leave his picture-perfect life (yet again) in order to
guide a series of troops into a crucial battle in Vietnam
in late 1965. In attempt to lessen the potential impact
on his children, Moore resorts to a very ambiguous explanation
of war (which is instigated by a daughter who begs to ask
what the word actually means), kisses his charming and beautiful
wife Julia (Madeleine Stowe) good-bye, and slowly begins
to make his descent into the foray of violence on the other
side of the world.
his company, among others, are Major Bruce Crandall (Greg
Kinnear), an intelligent chopper pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Jack
Geoghegan (Chris Klein), a young and rather naive man who
has left behind a wife and a newborn son, and Sergeant Major
Basil Plumley (Sam Elliot), an experienced war veteran who
spends most of the movie walking around with a constipated
face. The movie spends its first, tiresome half setting
up these characters and their relationships with one another,
as Moore himself guides them through the necessary training
and lectures on teamwork before they are to touch down on
the battle ground. But when the time comes for the troops
to take their first step onto the dreaded Ia Drang valley
(which the movie intensifies by calling it the "valley
of death" on occasion), they realize, firsthand, that
all their preparations mean nothing when it comes to the
violent tyranny waged in a war zone, especially when the
opposition is so great that you wonder why the US military
wasn't smarter in planning their initial strategies.
movie is based on a book called "We Were Soldiers Once...
And Young," somewhat of a memoir, I gather, of the
title character himself, who was one of the few men to survive
the incredibly intense battle during those last months of
1965. As conveyed through the Gibson performance, Moore's
general message is that a person's endurance is the real
winner here, no matter how many lives are lost on the battle
field or what the outcome is of their efforts.
any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. That's because
this is pretty much the same thread of reasoning that is
used to conduct Ridley Scott's recent "Black Hawk Down,"
a film that is widely acclaimed for its timely and crucial
focus on the ominous atmosphere that is present during times
of war. I can't say whether Scott's work is better than
"We Were Soldiers," but that's beside the point.
Our world is in an age of chaos and confusion, giving us
a direct glimpse into the ambiguity of this subject. War
is no doubt hell. The only question is, do we really need
another movie to tell us that? I think not.
2002, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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