HTF REVIEW: "We Were Soldiers" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 9, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    We Were Soldiers

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 2002
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 138 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)

    There need to be more movies like We Were
    Soldiers that show war in its most graphic
    reality. Hollywood is far too guilty in the way
    they have honored, patronized and glorified their
    war stories. This film has none of that. It's
    as frank about the horrors and atrocities of the
    Vietnam war than any film before it. More
    importantly, if for only a brief airport scene
    at the end of the film, it so righteously shows
    the attitude our surviving veterans received upon
    their return to the states.
    We Were Soldiers is based upon the book
    written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, along with Joe
    Galloway. It concerns The Battle of Ia Drang, one
    of the lesser-known, yet painful entries in American
    The year is 1965. Lt. Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson)
    is a war scholar who spends his nights studying the
    history of General Custer and other fallen heroes.
    He's about to go into Vietnam with a bunch of
    fresh-faced kids to face what could ultimately be
    a massacre like Custer experienced. Making one of
    his final addresses at home, he promises he will not
    lose (or leave behind) any men that have been given
    to him. He explains to his men that there are no
    divisions between them. Neither race nor status
    nor religious separates them, they are all equal.
    The story shoves us head first into one of the
    most brutal battles in the Vietnam War. Welcome
    to the Ia Drang valley, where 400 helicopter-dropped
    US soldiers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and
    Sergeant Major Plumley (Sam Elliot), are brought
    face-to-face with some 2000 Vietnamese hiding in
    the hills and caves surrounding them. The Americans
    who have been thrusted into this deadly battle
    include Major Bruce Crandall (Greg Kinnear), Lt.
    Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), who has just left
    his young wife and newborn daughter, and Joe
    Galloway (Barry Pepper), a man from a military
    family who would rather study war -- not fight it.
    What sets this war film apart from all others is
    that we get the perspectives of war from not just
    the Americans who came and fought, but from the
    perspective of the Vietnamese commander, which
    allows us to understand their strategies. Finally,
    we see the war from the perspective of the waiting
    and worrying wives who take it upon themselves to
    deliver the dreaded yellow telegrams to the
    newly-widowed women living around them.
    How is the transfer?
    I first had the opportunity to watch this DVD
    a day earlier on a JVC DLA-G15U projector that
    shot the image on a large 10x20 foot outdoor
    screen. Upon viewing the movie, I was just
    taken back by the clarity and brightness of the
    picture -- especially the deep blacks that were
    evident in scene after scene.
    I suppose a $14,000 projector can make anything
    look outstanding, for watching this on my ISF
    calibrated 57" Toshiba HX81 garnered entirely
    different results altogether.
    I found the transfer to be quite gritty looking.
    What bothered me up front was the very evident
    amount of grain and noise in the picture that you
    can immediately notice in brightly lit scenes.
    Go to chapter 2 where Greg Kinnear and Mel Gibson
    are talking or chapter 4 where the wives are sitting
    on the couch discussing themselves and you can see
    a picture littered with grain. In fact, the noise
    is so disruptive that in Chapter 4 you can actually
    see it breaking up within the faces of the women.
    Flesh tones also seem to run a bit too hot, with
    everyone's face looking more red than it should.
    This also results in quite a bit of sharpness being
    lost in this rather soft transfer. The colors of the
    film look more subdued than vivid, but that actually
    helps give the film a more period look.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is as good as one would
    expect from a war film. The mix contains distinct
    direction that keeps the dialogue firmly in the
    center channel as the two front channels deliver
    powerful bass-heavy audio that is accented by the
    pounding warfare rumbles of the LFE channel. The
    rears never seem to let up, immersing you in the ever
    so realistic sounds of bullets, helicopter flyovers
    and soldiers yelling from just about every direction.
    An extremely active mix that will test the limits
    of your system.
    Special Features
    The DVD begins with a very patriotic menu sequence
    that shows dog tags of soldiers and text that
    remind us of the inevitable odds these men faced
    and the one man who led them into battle.
    A full length commentary with Director
    and Writer Randall Wallace
    Getting It Right begins with actual B&W
    footage from Vietnam of a soldier talking to the
    press, commending Lt.Col. Hal Moore's command of
    his battalion. The images dissolve to present day
    as we watch the real-life Lt. Col Hal Moore describe
    how accurate this film portrays Vietnam. Director
    and Writer Randall Wallace was immediately intriqued
    by Harold Moore's novel that repeatedly blamed
    Hollywood for getting the Vietnam war stories
    wrong every time. Wallace realized that he had a
    story to tell, and he wanted to tell it right.
    Mel Gibson describes receiving an early draft of
    the script two years earlier and wanting to be
    involved in the project. He describes the direction
    of Director Wallace, who directed huge scenes with
    a large cast and lots of wartime explosions happening
    all at once. There are some extensive footage from
    behind the camera of the training and battle scenes.
    Director of Photography Dean Smith wanted to make
    sure that this movie did not come off as a slick
    Hollywood production, but rather a film that looked
    authentic. Special Effects Coordinator Paul Lombardi
    stresses the importance of dirty frames, where there
    are always pieces of kicked up dirt and smoke to
    be found. There is some really cool footage of
    special effects test shots that include dummy
    soldiers that were rigged to be shot and bled, as
    well as test footage of some of the film's most
    elaborate napalm explosions. Next we get into
    the casting of the film as Hal Moore's wife Julie
    talks about being with Actress Madeleine Stowe,
    giving her insight into the real life person and
    situations she was portraying. Mel Gibson talks
    about the wives's own private battle and the
    responsibility of becoming messengers, delivering
    the yellow telegrams. Military Technical Advisor
    Jason Powell describes the 2-week crash course
    he gave to the actors on how to be a soldier. We
    watch the actors struggle through boot camp,
    running through obstacles and firing weapons.
    Wouldn't you know it? Greg Kinnear complains of
    hangnails. The documentary then turns to Editor
    William Loy who talks about the great task of
    editing this picture. Composer Nick-Glennie Smith
    describes how his music became the heart and soul
    of the American and Vietnamese soldiers. This is
    an outstanding documentary that takes us from the
    film's preproduction to its post production without
    skimping on detailed footage.
    (length: Approx. 24 minutes)
    There are ten deleted scenes that include:
    * A group of young soldiers on a lake trip
    and a tall-tale story of an officer who gets
    chewed out about not wearing his war decorations
    only to return butt naked.
    * An early meeting of Julie Moore (Madeline Stowe)
    and Barbara Geoghan (Kerri Russell) where the two
    women first bond. We see an emotional Jack
    Geoghan (Chris Klein) holding his newborn daughter.
    * A short clip that tells the story of two soldiers
    (Adam and Beck) who fought hard in battle.
    * An original proposed ending to the film that
    was never shown. The surviving company returns
    to Camp Holloway and march off down a dusty road.
    * There is a final debriefing sequence that was
    cut - but I'll be vague of its contents since it
    may ruin the ending of the film for anyone that
    has not seen it.
    All of these scenes can be played with optional
    commentary by Randall Wallace, which I highly
    recommend you do.
    With all these added features, I was sort of
    perplexed as to why the film's original theatrical
    trailer was omitted.
    Final Thoughts
    For those of us who have never had to experience
    war, We Were Soldiers is the closest thing
    to being there. It's a startlingly graphic story
    whose characters really make you care about what
    happened in Vietnam. It's also another testament
    to the useless act and absurdity of war.
    Add this to your collection.
    Release Date: August 20, 2002
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    This was another review that brought me
    past my normal bedtime.

    I did not have time to review the commentary,
    and normally I had not planned on a commentary

    If there are those that really want it, just
    ask, and I'll be happy to add a paragraph or

  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    I just got done watching this dvd about an hour ago. I've seen all the deleted scenes and the behind the scenes featurette, but I'm going to watch the dvd again tomorrow with the director's commentary which would make it four times I have seen this film either at home or at the movie theater. A great film about men who fought in a battle not many would know about, but the sacrifices they made should never be diminished. I've read the book too and it's a great read.

  4. jacob w k

    jacob w k Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 17, 2002
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    Didn't have any interest in it when it came out but it sounds like a movie I would like and will now probably check it out.
  5. Scott Simonian

    Scott Simonian Screenwriter

    Jun 20, 2001
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    I heard this track was DD EX. I wonder how much better it is with the derived rear surround.
  6. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

    Dec 4, 2001
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    I for one have great interest in this film and will definitely be picking it up. Nice review Ron.
  7. Nick_Scott

    Nick_Scott Second Unit

    Sep 9, 2001
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    When the movie came out, I didn't want to see it.
    The trailers made it look like a sappy chick movie, without a hint of violent war scenes.

    I wasnt until I read some reviews, and went "huh?". Were the "We were soldiers" trailers for a different movie?

    So, I saw it and loved it- Very realistic. Would of done much better if it had better trailers.

    Looking forward to the DVD!

  8. BobG

    BobG Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 9, 2001
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    This is the best film of 2002. I can't wait to hear that napalm explosion in all its DD5.1 EX glory!
  9. Sean Moon

    Sean Moon Cinematographer

    Jan 25, 2001
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    Very curious about the EX too. Cant wait!
  10. Scott Simonian

    Scott Simonian Screenwriter

    Jun 20, 2001
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  11. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

    Dec 29, 2001
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    Post Edited By Administrator - Do Not Repost!
    I haven't seen this yet since I missed it in theaters, but I'll definitely be checking it out. I think it's refreshing to have a Vietnam war movie that isn't told from the peacenik anti-war viewpoint that permeates every other movie about this war, and which by the way didn't really gain steam until after the timeframe this movie covers. Surely even people who disagree with the way this war was managed from on high can understand that we went into the conflict with good intentions, and that the soldiers were for the most part patriots doing their job.
  12. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

    Oct 27, 2001
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    Great review, Ron.

  13. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

    Aug 20, 2000
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    Post Edited By Administrator - Do Not Repost!
    This movie was set in a time period where the direct involvement of American troops in combat in the Vietnam war was just starting to take place. The people portrayed were volunteers......not conscripts. It would stand to reason that during this time period the people involved would have actually thought that what they were doing over there was an admirable course of action. It is not empty patriotism because they actually believed they were fighting a just cause. The disillusionment came later in the war....not in small part due to an effective propaganda campaign carried out by the opposing side. Try reading "A Viet Cong Memoir". It is an interesting book written by a former leader in the Viet Cong movement. He was later made "Justice Minister" in the provisional revolutionary government set up by the North Vietnamese victors. He eventually escaped with his wife. The book is illuminating reading from "enemy" eyes.
  14. Wes C

    Wes C Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 2002
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    Ron, dont worry its a great review, thanks![​IMG]
  15. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

    Mar 14, 1999
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    Our family saw this at a sneak a few months ago. As soon as it was over, my wife turned to me and said, "We ARE buying this one."

    WWS ranks up there (for us) with our other war favorites, SPR, Patton, and Tora Tora Tora.
  16. YANG

    YANG Second Unit

    Feb 10, 1999
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    Just received my copy last night.So far had only checked out the war part not the entire movie.
    I am very impressed by the DD5.1 track.(Too bad on the absence of DTS...which PARAMOUNT did not go for)

    The deleted scenes is a must see!
    By the way,i had checked every content of the disc.There is one "easter egg",a PARAMOUNT 90TH ANNIVERSARY DVD trailer in 1.85:1 ratio which is suppose to appear before the FBI COPYRIGHT warning,but did not.
    Direct access to title-13 using your remote.
  17. Jens Raethel

    Jens Raethel Second Unit

    Oct 27, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Great review, thanks Ron!
    I just ordered the dvd.[​IMG]
  18. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    This film is not for the faint of heart. You will feel the terror of being on the front lines of the start of the Vietnam war. It's a solid movie, but sort of hard to make myself want to watch it repeatedly.
  19. Jeremiah

    Jeremiah Screenwriter

    Jun 22, 2001
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    Thanks for the review Ron.

    After seeing the trailers I also didn't want to see it b/c it looked way to sappy but I went with my friends anyway and I couldn't wait for the DVD release.

    There are a couple sappy scenes but this is a hardcore war movie.
  20. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    For those that bought the DVD and have
    watched it....

    Do you agree with my assesment of the transfer?

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