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*** Official "WE WERE SOLDIERS" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert Crawford, Feb 28, 2002.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for We Were Soldiers. Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues, please post your discussion comments in the Official Discussion Thread for this film which can be found here.
    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
    Crawdaddy
     
  2. Chuck C

    Chuck C Cinematographer

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    I say let's get this thread going, so I'll start:

    We Were Soldiers was excellent. The story showed all sides, which included family, American and N. Vietnamese soldiers. It was a sad and brutal story with complicated action and a ton of drama, but Randy Wallace told it very effectively. To conclude my short review, Mel Gibson was tops in this movie. I loved the speech he gave before they went off to battle. If you're gonna see it, see it for Mel.

    A.
     
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    My One Word Review for "We Were Soldiers": Brutal.

    Thank goodness director Randall Wallace didn't feel the need for going with that overdone blue filter and gave us some of the scariest war battle scenes shot in natural sunlight and darkness. There was a bit a slow-motion action shots, but nothing that was overused, and there are some incredible war re-creation of the battle in Vietnam.

    Overall this was a pretty tight, albeit unflinching depiction of America's 1st military involvement in the Vietnam War, and it wasn't a pretty sight. The US wasn't as prepared, was short-handed, and was battling a country fighting for their own survival on their home turf. It was very difficult odds to say the least.

    The characterizations were good for Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) and his family (including Madeline Stowe as his wife), and the network of officer's wives gave the audience that emotional tie-in to the fates of the brave soldiers sent 12,000 miles away to fight a battle that no one wanted fought, but their country sent them, and they did the best they could given the politial climate and actual war theater locations and support.

    As an American, you can't help be feel incredible anguish and sympathy when you see us engaged in war, and the terrible toll it takes not only on the soldiers, but their families (on both sides) as well. This was an unflinching look at what happened that first week in battle in Vietnam.

    If you are one that can handle strong bloody war violence, and are interested in this sort of material, I recommend seeing it at the movie theaters for the sheer spectacle of the war depicted on the screen.

    I give this film a grade of A- or 3.5 stars.
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Let me preface my review by stating that I read the book, "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young" which the film is based on before seeing the film. I've since watched this film twice! Once yesterday afternoon and again, today. As you can guess, I like this film because why would a normal person watch the same movie twice in 24 hours, unless he really likes it.[​IMG] The film pretty much follows the book, however there were some creative liberties taken in regard to certain scenes at home and about the soldiers families during the 4 day battle. Some might criticized certain portions of the dialogue as being corny and patriotic but back when this initial major battle took place between soldiers of United States and North Vietnam, the whole political conflict about whether American troops should be in Vietnam had not come to fruition. During the early years of the Vietnam conflict, the senior officers and non-commission officers of the the 1st Calvary Division were mostly made up of WWII and Korean War veterans. So the patriotic jargon that was spoken by Mel Gibson and other actors was pretty much on the money to the West Point creed of God, Country, and Honor.
    Now, getting back to the basic story of this film. The film opens with the formation and training of the 1st Calvary Division of the United States Army. Instead of horses, they used helicopters to fly into and out of battle. Most of the minor criticism I have about the film takes place in this section of the film. There were a couple of scenes that really didn't need to be in the film, one involving Mel Gibson's daughter and another was a church scene with Gibson and one of his young officers. However, both scenes though unnecessary, really didn't detract from my overall grade of the film because the rest of the film was so damn good.
    In late July of 1965, President Johnson ordered the 1st Calvary Division to Vietnam. In November of that year, the first major battle took place between American troops and North Vietnamese Regular soldiers. The battle took place in the Ia Drang Valley which the Vietnamese would later call it the "Valley of Death". Mel Gibson played the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry that fought in that battle. To say the battle was bloody would be an understatement! The battle lines between the forces were sometimes invisible which led to close up and personal fire fights, sometimes involving hand to hand combat. The 7th Cavalry had more men killed in this battle than any regiment that fought during the Battle of Gettysburg. The losses of the Vietnamese were much greater due to their committed forces being larger in numbers as well as accurate American artillery and air cover support.
    One of the aspects of this film that I particularly liked was how they portrayed the North Vietnamese. The film gave credit to the bravery and tenacity of the Vietnamese soldiers that died in that battle as well as leadership displayed by the Vietnamese officer in charge. They weren't just a faceless enemy but were men who were scared and had loved ones too but still fought and died bravely during this battle. Another film aspect that some might criticize is the showing of the American soldiers families back home before and during the battle. I like how the director took us back home for a while during the battle to give us a break from the battle scenes while showing the emotional pain those soldiers families were going through as the battle took place. Some will say it disturbed the pacing of the film but to me, it gave us a moment to catch our breath from the intense battle scenes.
    The acting, particularly Mel Gibson and Sam Elliot were outstanding. In regard to their characterizations, the film never deviated from the book. They both captured Lt. Col. Moore and Sergeant Major Plumley perfectly. The battle sequences were also top notch and some of the best ever captured on screen. Undoubtedly, some will compared the battle scenes with "Black Hawk Down" but displaying and staging an urban fire fight to a battle that took place in a jungle and over a longer period of time is somewhat unfair in comparison.
    In closing, this film captured the essence of the book and the battle that took place in 1965. Except for a couple of scenes, this film would have been a perfect depiction. Since I'm a child of the 1960's, who grew up during the Vietnam conflict while watching an older brother serve two tours over there, I have a certain affinity to this film and what it represented for the soldiers who fought in that battle and the effect it had on their families. I highly recommend this film but I hope people that see this film, judge it's story and dialogue as it was taking place in 1965, and not how earlier Vietnam War films were made about battles that took place in the late 1960's and early 70's in a time when the political climate changed which also changed our ideals.
    Crawdaddy
     
  5. todbnla

    todbnla Screenwriter

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    This won't be a long detailed review like the rest, I will just say this:
    I have seen all of the recent, modern made war films and this one is right there with the rest of the best. The story is very sad and realistic. It constantly reminds us that most of the time, the politicians in charge have no clue, but still soldiers must fight and die for what they believe in. Even though the state of the art mega plex theater we saw the show at, lost the center channel sound 1/2 way thru the movie, and at times, the sound was so bad it sounded like someone was actually slowing the film down with their hand, We sat thru the film and enjoyed it. I hate to use this yard stick to compare it to, but the battle scenes in this movie are just as brutal as the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan. They were so vivid at times, I caught my self jumping and almost feeling the pain that the actors were portraying in certain scenes. IMHO, a very good, gotta get, Viet Nam era war movie. I got to see this one for free since the sound crapped out, but I will see it again before it leaves the theater and hits DVD. A must see on the big screen as some of the scenes are stunning! Mel Gibson and all of the actors in this film did an amazing job, even Greg Kinear (sp?) [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  6. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I have to say that I liked what I saw a great deal, with a few specific scenes as an exception.
    The film as a whole follows much the same format as Black Hawk Down with the notable exception of including a short segment in the beginning and middle that shows their lives and families back home. The basic core of the film is a raw look at a specific incident in American military history. This look is also interesting in comparison to BHD because they both avoid including a discussion of why we as a country were there in favor of showing why the soldiers fight as hard and as bravely as they did. "Because of the man next to you" was used in BHD, and it applies very strongly to this film as well.
    The film very clearly lays out the specifics of the battle as well as keeping the multiple situations and lines very clear. This could easily be a real stumbling block, but I credit Wallace with keeping the action and environments very clear.
    On that note, the action is very visceral and realistic to a degree. I noticed many soldiers firing their weapons without aiming properly, which may or may not be a flaw. Keeping in mind that many were firing for effect, this may have been an attempt to capture the event. If, however, this is not accurate to the battle, then it could be considered an unrealistic flaw. I'm siding with the filmmakers and say that the battles were very realistic.
    There is a specific amount of gore to this, which has become a defacto requirement of all war films in recent memory. And this one is no less brutal than any of the others, with particularly gruesome damage from fire and phosphorous grenades. You are forewarned that this is as unflinching as the other films.
    The actors and actresses all do a very admirable job, although I got the impression that Sam Elliot was channeling Tom Sizemore throughout this film. I was very cautious about Chris Klein, but he does a good job with his role. The wives in the film also do a fair job as well, although Keri Russell didn't leave as much of an impression as I would have thought. Mel Gibson really gives this one his all, and it shows. He really buoys the film whenever he is onscreen (which is nearly constant, as his point of view dominates the entire story) with the intelligence, bravery, and heart that the role demands.
    One of the few mistakes in this film seem to come from an element that will undoubtably dissuade some from even seeing this film. This is the scene when Hal's daughter asks him what a war is. It's such a forced scene that really feels out of place and ineffective.
    Another element is a montage of photographs with Barry Pepper in slow motion. It's is such an amateurish approach that kills the section where it's placed. That said, Barry does an acceptable job as an enthusiastic reporter who witnessed and documented the event.
    As stated before, the film avoids the topic of the politics of the war, and I think that is to the benefit of the movie. By focusing instead on the soldiers, who it has been said do not fight for politics, it keeps the film more personal.
    All in all, I think this is a fine film, and worthy of comparison to the recent very effective war films. I give it [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG], and think this was a very worthy effort.
     
  7. Jeremiah

    Jeremiah Screenwriter

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    I agree with pretty much everything Crawdaddy and Patrick said about the film so there is not much else to add, it was a very intense movie.

    I didn't like the added "what is war" question and I didn't like the prayer in the church scene much either but once the soldiers got to Vietnam it more than makes up for it.

    I liked it when they showed us what the women had to go through back home when their husbands were at war. Getting one of those letters would be one of the worst things a person could get and it broke my heart when I thought of what the wives experienced.

    I thought all the action was outstanding and very intense. Let me put it this way, when the movie was over I still had a half a box of Junior Mints left and they all melted into one big one b/c I was gripping it during the last half of the movie.

    Much better than I thought it was going to be. A-
     
  8. todd stone

    todd stone Screenwriter

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    just got back from the movie with my fiancee. EXCELLENT MOVIE.
    Mel Gibson was great, and I was surprised to see the sniper from saving private ryan in it.
    The trailers do NOT do justice for this great film. GO SEE IT!
    Excellent soundtrack btw.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Alex, I agree I thought the slow mo scene with the photographer was WAY out of place. looked real bad if you ask me.
     
  9. Josh_Hill

    Josh_Hill Screenwriter

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    I just got back from the theater and Im gonna say: Damn! What a flick. Really good, I didnt expect this, I expected the flag-waving of Pearl Harbor, not a real war film. I loved how they gave the Vietnam leader quite a lot of screen time and kinda made it a head-to-head thing with him and Gibson, who is just great in this movie, but the character that I love most was Berry Pepper. Just an awesome actor. An and all, a great war movie, but not as good as Black Hawk Down. Excellent Sound Mix btw. Really made me feel like I was there.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  10. Nick_Scott

    Nick_Scott Second Unit

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    I also loved the movie, though I almost skipped it because of the lame trailers. They made it look like some sappy love story, so I figured I'd see something else, but then I read the Ebert review that said most of the movie was combat, and I went "Huh?"

    Anyway, my only complaint is that:

    they said it was a true story, based on the novel by the lead character!!!! Up to that point, I had no idea about the story, and now I know the main character lives!?!?! Kinda killed the end for me, but still a wicked good movie.
     
  11. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    We Were Soldiers tells the story of the first conflict in the Vietnam War at Ia Drang in 1965. Its premise and trailer make it look like another sentimental war film. Instead, director Randall Wallace manages to give us a well-rounded film balancing the human elements both at the front lines and the families that are left behind. It tells the story about the U.S. soldiers and its enemy, the North Vietnamese.
    Wallace gives a skillful depiction of the events at Ia Drang. The performances of Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear, Madeleine Stowe and Barry Pepper are all worth noting.
    Because of how certain characters are developed, one gets a foreshadowing about their fates, as well, which is somewhat unfortunate. That is why I believe Black Hawk Down is better in this regard. That film has been criticized for lack of character development, which I did not have a problem with. These soldiers are human beings. And that’s all I need to know. They have a family back home and some might even have a wife and children. Others might even have a nice college education. But to me, all of that is not important. These soldiers are first and foremost, people. That’s enough for me to care about these guys. Because on the battlefield, everyone is at the same level regardless of one’s background. However, to those who like their characters fully drawn out for them, this film will satisfy those needs.
    Yes, there are a few miscalculations including a scene where Gibson’s character engages in a war discussion with his 5-year old daughter and some unnecessary combat scenes done in slow motion only to highlight a character’s death. But these scenes are far and few in between so as to ruin an entire film.
    For the most part, and given the context of the film, We Were Soldiers tells an engaging and honest story about the early years of the Vietnam War. It is a worthy addition to the other Vietnam War films that precede it.
    It rates [​IMG] (out of four).
    ~Edwin
     
  12. DennisP

    DennisP Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, saw "We were Soldiers"....it's an excellent war movie. Gibson plays a good part and the action for the last 3/4 of the movie is almost non-stop. If I was gong to rate this one against Black Hawk Down....I'd have to say BHD was a better movie. This movie is definitely in my top three war movies of all time (modern era type). Black Hawk Down would be my Number one pick followed by a tie between Saving Pvt. Ryan, and We Were Soldiers. It's not to say that Saving Pvt. Ryan isn't a better movie..because I think it is...but I rate them a even because "I " liked them both the same. We Were Soldiers is a little more "sappy" than Saving Pvt. Ryan. It's a more typical Hollywood formula movie...sets up the characters so you care about them and then kills em off. You get a fair dose of "what's gong on back home" while the sh*t is hitting the fan in Nam. I think the critics that didn't like Black Hawk Down because it didn't develop the characters will love this movie..and the critics that loved Black Hawk Down because it just told the story of the mission and didn't get into character development will probably not like this one as much. I probably fall into the second group....I wanted to see the mission and didn't need to know who has how many kids back home.
    The things I really liked about this movie was the way it showed the strategy and planning by the Viet Minh and the American Commander. I found that part very interesting. I loved Sam Elliot as the SGM..he is a scream..has some great lines and does an excellent job. Greg Kinear plays a Chopper Pilot and does a good job too. It's a different role for him and I think he pulls it off very well.
    The airs strikes in this show are outstanding. I think they really killed people.
    I saw a lot of the same mistakes being made in this military operation as in Black Hawk Down. Unprepared for the type of enemy they were facing, not enough of what they need when they go in...... It was amusing to see how they cooled off the mortar tubes....I was roaring.
    This is a bloody show...makes Black Hawk down look like a pillow fight. Very much on a par with the opening of Saving Pvt Ryan..but goes on much longer. You'll be amazed to see what Napalm and "Willy Peter" does to human flesh. This is a definite have to own DVD for my collection. Best WWII Movie - Saving Pvt Ryan; Best Viet Nam Movie - We Were Soldiers; Best Present Day War Movie - Black Hawk Down;
    This one is a definite must see. This movie portrays American soldiers in Viet Nam as something other than wacko's and pot smokers like in the movies Platoon and Apocalypse Now. That's a refreshing change for me.
    I didn't see any Academy Award material here..but a story that really needed to be told.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  13. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Well, I finally checked this out, and I was pleasantly surprised. This sadly came out while BHD was still fresh in my consciousness, so the comparisons were inevitable. In all honestly, the films essentially tell very similar stories with identical themes. The difference in them is the skill of the directors.

    I'll start with the negatives, which were quite ominous in the first twenty minutes. They paled once the movie found it's way and started it story, so I'll quickly list them and move on.

    - I noticed the overly bombastic music right away. It was quite good at times, and quite bad at times.

    - The first of the wive's scenes - why the race issue? It didn't belong in the movie for the screen time it got. I understand that it was Ft. Benning, GA in 1965. I also doubt that every wife there was quite as open thinking as portrayed. This was a solid point, but belonged in a different film.

    - The return to the homefront during the battle. This is probably BHD down haunting me, but it took me out of the crux of the movie. The narrative was great and this was a little disorienting. That said, I had no problem with telling the wives' stories. They deserve it. But WWS didn't do it. It gave them lip-service, out of sequence, and moved on.

    - I loved the scene of Joe Galloway putting his gun down and picking his camera up. The "montage" that followed was awful. The photographs were good. Did they need glamour shots of Barry Pepper taking pictures superimposed? I would say NO.

    - The heavy-handedness of Joe's last conversation with Hal Moore. It was a good point, that could have been inferred a bit more effectively.

    - Hollywood...I'll explain later.

    And that's it. Sounds like I didn't like the film. I did. Very much. It got so much more right. The silence/music only while the husbands were leaving was very well done. The only words for about 5 minutes were by Hal's wife..."I love you." VERY well done. The battle sequences were outstanding. The geography, which is critical in these films (and real life), was handled effectively. Greg Kinnear was exceptional, and his turmoil was quite evident in all scenes. I enjoyed every moment he was in. Mel Gibson did quite well, as usual.

    To the Hollywood comment...it was a Hollywood movie. I wouldn't have noticed it as much, again, if I had not had BHD on my mind so much these last few months. There were Hollywood moments and touches in WWS. They weren't bad, but they were obvious. There were extraneous moments in this that didn't really belong in THIS story. But they didn't really detract either. They were just there.

    Overall, a good/almost great movie. I found it emotionally difficult to watch because there were real men in Ia Drang, and real women at home waiting for them. I have always, and will always, be moved by their courage, bravery, and friendship. Movies that honestly and effectively honor them will always be special films. And WWS honors them quite well. It's a story that deserved to be told.

    And a movie that deserves to be watched.

    Rating in 2002 film list: 8.5/10

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  14. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    This is the film I chose to see yesterday for my birthday.

    This is destined to be regarded as one of the great war films and probably the best on the Viet Nam war.

    Watching the real Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Mel Gibson on 60 Minutes the other night got me to go see this film, but also made it a little harder for me to accept Gibson in the lead role. Sam Elliott plays a very grizzled Sergeant Major Basil Plumley and looks more like the real Moore than does Gibson. We may have to start a poll to see who has played a more hard edged character than Sam Elliott. Damn few. I have read critics questioning giving Gibson the lead and I see the point, and would be able to envision George Clooney here.

    A few movies of this era show 90 day wonders bumping around the jungle getting them and their men killed by their incompetence. Lt. Col. Moore and Sergeant Major Plumley were no nonsense career military men who are portrayed as being the best the Army has to offer. Where Gibson shined was when he was on screen with Elliott.

    At several critical points in the battle, Gibson gets up, surveys the situation and talks out his obvservation and course of action with Elliott. Col. Moore is the quintensential tactician who while seeming able to read the mind of his counterpart is merely countering a course of action that he would do in the same situation. Plumley is no dummy when it comes to tactics, but it is not his role, and he knows his role extremely well. There is no hesitation when Moore makes his decision. There is no doubting by Plumley as he has enough combat experience and tactical knowledge to be in complete agreement with Moore - so when the decision is made, the Sergeant Major turns, gathers his men and commences to shoot and kill the enemy. Nothing complicated or pretty here, just one damn cold scaryass army lifer killing machine. Their interchange was truely the high point of this film for me.


    As hard and professional as these two men are, it is clear how their men would come to revere them.

    Maybe not a perfect film, but it gets way more things right than it screws up. I will get this DVD when it comes out and will make an effort to watch it again on May 31st.
     
  15. BarryS

    BarryS Second Unit

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    Resurrecting this old thread to present my review of We Were Soldiers. I wasn't sure if Ron's HTF review was the right place to post it.
    Am I the only one that didn't like this movie? I'm baffled by the huge praise We Were Soldiers gets. Was everyone else watching the same film I saw? What I saw was a tired, cliched war film poorly written and with minimal character development. After the first thirty minutes of the requisite "exposition" we are plunged into Vietnam and thus begins the carnage that seldom ceases. And I do mean seldom ceases. The movie feels like one long battle scene, never knowing when to relent. The trailers made it look like the movie would thoroughly explore the men's relationships with their families, but instead we get only a handful of brief scenes featuring the women and children. Mel Gibson's character is the only one we really get to know, the rest of them just seem like expendable supporting characters waiting for their death scenes. The females were pretty much wasted, especially Madeleine Stowe. They were basically around just to cry when they receive their telegram learning of their husband's death. However, we barely even knew the husbands, so how are we supposed to be saddened in any way by their deaths?
    We Were Soldiers is a solid war movie, but it presents nothing new and contributes nothing that we haven't seen in countless other war movies. The "showing-the-horrors-of-war-with-heretofore-unseen-realism" thing was done better in Saving Private Ryan. The insanity of the Vietnam war was more successfully shown in the better films Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Hamburger Hill. Many films have been made about Vietnam, and while We Were Soldiers may indeed explore a battle or era of the war previously untouched by the film medium, it's still the same-old same-old. Basically, we've seen it all before.
    [​IMG][​IMG] out of four.
     

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