HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW of  We Were Soldiers

 

Title:  We Were Soldiers

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about  120 minutes

MPAA Rating:  R

Distributor and Production Company:  Paramount

Director; Writer: Directed by Randall Wallace

Producer:

Cast:  Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear..

Technical: Panavision 2.35/1, Digital

Relevance to HPPUB site: war

Review:  How often did field grade officers fight alongside their men in infantry combat in Vietnam?  Sometimes, maybe often, at least in this one of the first major battles of the Vietnam War, in the Ia Drang valley in November 1965.

 

I recall that summer, working for the Navy’s David Taylor Model Basin in my first programming job (coding FORTRAN of all things), when LBJ escalated the war, and the talk around the office was pretty hawkish.  LBJ is shown in black-and-white TV as warning that more men will be shipped as needed. Of course, we now know of tapes that show that LBJ and McNamara already had doubts about the eventual success of a long guerilla war, but there was the Col War domino theory.

 

In fact, the military values of the age are explicitly documented, with a seriousness that seems melodramatic and overdone. Gibson’s character has a wife and five kids—he is properly socialized, to relate to his kids as a dad, through his courtship and heterosexuality—and he is ready to go out and fight with his men, ultimately to protect the freedom of his wife and family. Got it?  That was the deal back then, even as (with student deferments) nerds started to get out of it.

 

The wives have their support clubs, especially for water breaks … and later the ladies start getting telegrams about their loved ones.  Gibson will feel guilty that he survives and his men don’t. Well, the noncombatant photographer does, except that Gibson makes him fight anyway.  

 

In fact at one base social event they emphasize the fact that enlistments were not extended.  Remember, LBJ had already ended preferential deferments for married men in August, 1965. 

 

Unit cohesion will cross race and creed lines, as Gibson stresses in one speech. One the fighting begins, it is relentless, with the mayhem done to male bodies as graphic and upsetting as ever filmed in the movies.  (No, this movie is way beyond the resources of an indie Toward the end, the troops really fix bayonets and carry out hand-to-hand, just like in basic training.  They give a good course in Army first aid, complete with fireman’s carry and sucking chest wounds, all on the G-3 tests for graduation from basic.  

  

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