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Overall Rating
3.61

Awesome37.86%
Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 16.43%
Pretty Bad: 16.43%
Total Crap: 9.29%

6 reviews, 104 user ratings


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We Were Soldiers
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by Collin Souter

"Wallace's metal jacket is only half-full"
2 stars

About half-way through “We Were Soldiers,” something interesting happened. Right smack in the middle of all the ground warfare, wounded bodies and heavy artillery, a character shows up who has very little grasp of the machines, but has the keenest eyes and ears to tell the story about what is actually happening. The photojournalist, Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper), feels that this would be the best way for him to serve his country. Towards the end, and I’m not giving anything away here, he becomes speechless. Suddenly, “We Were Soldiers,” found a story worth telling.

Randall Wallace wrote and directed “We Were Soldiers,” and while he certainly shows signs of promise here and there as a good director, I would still like to send him back to Screenwriting School. Wallace wrote the great “Braveheart” as well as the sickening “Pearl Harbor” movie. While ”Soldiers” is a bit of an improvement over the latter, it still has its share of Bay/Bruckheimerisms. Wallace leaves no combat cliché left unturned and a few unintentionally funny lines of dialogue leak through. Not only that but “Soldiers,” as does the endlessly flawed “Pearl Harbor,” doesn’t know a good story when it sees one.

Instead, we get what appears to be a Mel Gibson vehicle. He plays Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore, a man who lands the unfortunate task of being the first to lead a platoon into Vietnam, or to be more precise, Ia Drang. He has a wife and four children. Joining him are Maj. Bruce “Snakeshit” Crandall (Greg Kinnear), the gruff, but lovable Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley (Sam Elliot) and 2nd Lt. Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), and countless, nameless others. Moore then leads them through the rudimentary basic training sequence we’ve seen a zillion times before.

Meanwhile, Moore’s wife, Julie (Madeleine Stowe), has about 15 other officer’s wives over for a meeting where one woman says she can’t figure out why her laundromat won’t let her wash anything but whites. She explains to everyone about the sign on the door that says “White’s only.” Everyone in the room then has one of those “You wanna tell her or should I?” moments. Here, we wonder if Wallace will actually play the scene out with a straight face. He does. After she has that whole nasty racism thing explained to her, she looks at the one black woman in the room and wonders how she can put up with such abuse. The movie has its first “Pearl Harbor” moment when the black woman explains, “I know why my husband is fighting and that’s why I can smile.”

The dialogue improves ten-fold, however, when Moore delivers a speech to his soldiers about how he will see to it that all men will return home, dead or alive. Furthermore, he will not only be the first one off the helicopter, but the last one to get on as well. Gibson delivers the speech, I’ve heard, word for word as the real Moore originally spoke it. It’s one of the better scenes in the movie, but only because Gibson delivers it with conviction. It’s one of the rare moments in the movie where he doesn’t appear to be on autopilot.

One of Randall’s better moments as a director comes when he shows, very quietly, the men kissing their wives goodbye on the night they leave for Vietnam. The music picks up tempo as the men meet one by one under a street lamp then board the copter one by one in the morning light. The music picks up-tempo again and gets louder and louder as the men land in Vietnam and all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, it occurred to me what just happened. SOMEBODY RIPPED OFF THE SOUNDTRACK TO “THE THIN RED LINE” AGAIN! Okay, okay, I know I’m one of the few people who notice this, but I can’t stand it anymore. First the “Pearl Harbor” trailer, then “Black Hawk Down,” and now this. Same music cue, same tempo, same everything.

Why does this matter? Because, it just goes to show how standard and pedestrian this movie really is. War movies have become so inherently stylized and mannered since “Saving Private Ryan.” The crass commercialization of “Pearl Harbor” didn’t help the genre either. Nothing occurs in this movie that brings new light to our perception of war. Once again, a director tries to out-do the first 30 minutes of “Private Ryan.” Once again, we have a character, Jack Geoghegan, who has a pregnant wife back home (guess what happens to him?). Once again, we are meant to leave the theater on a mission to crack open the history books to learn more about the men who died for our country.

I know I sound like one of those cynical ‘young punks’ with no sense of patriotism or empathy. Believe me, I’m not. It angers me to no end that so many died for so little. I’m just wondering why this particular story needed to be told. It didn’t cause me to stop and think about the world in which we live. It didn’t attempt to change my perceptions about history. And, frankly, it didn’t move me in the slightest. The battle sequences repeat themselves as though they have been spliced together on a continuous loop. Also, Wallace has his Montage-o-Matic on overdrive. What am I meant to get out of this? War is hell? Don’t we know that already?

The war movie genre needs to go away for a while. I realize Hollywood, now more than ever, wants to do its patriotic duty and pay respects to those who lost their lives for our country. Or do they? When a movie has nothing interesting to say about war, does it really serve a purpose? Consider this: Tonight on TV, I saw a commercial for a violent video game. The commercial had all the graphics, all the kicking, punching and all the explosions, all with heavy metal music in the background. Next, I saw a commercial for “We Were Soldiers” and, other than the graphics, I couldn’t tell the two ads apart. I’m not joking, music and all.

(SPOILERS WARNING)
I realize I can’t criticize the actual events depicted in “We Were Soldiers.” The movie simply follows what Moore and Galloway wrote in the book “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young” and the true events which took place. But I still felt frustrated as the movie went on. Perhaps if I read the book, I’ll understand why Galloway’s story had less relevance than did Moore’s. It seems as though it should have been a no-brainer on the part of the screenwriter. Because, after all, what is the story arch we have here? Moore leaves for Vietnam. War is hell. Moore comes home. End of story. Certainly, there had to be more to the story than that.
(SPOILERS END)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Just because it’s a true story, that doesn’t mean it’s a great one.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5778&reviewer=233
originally posted: 03/07/02 04:17:47
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User Comments

9/06/12 Ed Not every movie is artsy fartsy. This is an authentic and realistic story 4 stars
8/15/09 Jeff Wilder Good war pic that was WAY better than Pearl Harbor, 4 stars
1/30/09 PAUL SHORTT STRONG, HONEST, STRIKINGLY PHOTOGRAPHED AND APPROPRIATELY DEVASTATING 4 stars
1/27/08 Charles Tatum Fantastic, thanks to Wallace's direction 5 stars
12/14/07 davidbobo20 One of Mel Gibson's best. 5 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Wallace again pisses on the soldiers who fought and died for their country. 2 stars
3/06/07 mb Might Be The Best Movie I Ever Saw 5 stars
10/21/06 Hursty take it as is meant, a salute to your fighting men 5 stars
8/05/06 chienne What the hell has Madeleine done to her lips?? Lick em & stick her to a window. 4 stars
7/17/06 William Goss Sporadically exciting if familiar overall, yet never deludes itself w/ self-importance. 3 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Powerful in a few spots, quite blah in most of the others. 3 stars
4/08/06 Frank Rountree Excellent movie based on the true story, as a retired veteran I could relate well 5 stars
1/22/06 Cock pure shite 1 stars
1/22/06 Quigley it goes to much into the horrifying voilence, but it has its moments of true power 4 stars
12/10/05 JohnWalker Sam El;liot was fine,hell the Army is full of cowboys and it was a 45 not a 9mm 4 stars
11/26/05 Lowtax neocunt right wing jerk off material 1 stars
11/16/05 emily aguero i thought that movie was incredible, anyone who doesnt like it doesnt want to face the past 5 stars
10/21/05 Dustin Titley-stanzel I thought it was great and the soundtrack was awsome 5 stars
10/16/05 Anus YOU DIED FOR SOMEONE ELSE'S COUNTRY YOU RETARDED WARMONGERING CUNT! 1 stars
10/09/05 Brendon Messer This movie shows what war is really like freinds and family dying not some flashy shoot em 5 stars
9/24/05 c cold ab fab 5 stars
8/25/05 ES Sam Elliot rocks, this movie doesn't 2 stars
7/25/05 jjulian Check out DVD final deleted scene, which gutless director left out--makes a huge difference 4 stars
6/13/05 Indrid Cold Simple-minded but effective. Wisely avoids addressing the bigger issues about the war. 4 stars
6/08/05 Anthony G AMF your an idiot this movie rocked, Braveheart sucks black dick for coke like your mom amf 5 stars
4/13/05 Quigley powerful, but incredibly hard to sit throguh. I don't know if i could watch it again 4 stars
4/04/05 Ric Great battle scenes and solid acting override the cliched dialogue and repetitive violence. 4 stars
2/27/05 Beverley Mooren Best Viet Nam war movie ever. 5 stars
2/17/05 Rafael Ochoa good 4 stars
2/15/05 Rock-steady hard to imagine, that one year after this he becomes a christian and makes pos christ 5 stars
12/08/04 Rebecca To the critics that had bad ratings.....what the hell do you know? 5 stars
11/08/04 Steve It is the most KICK ASS Vietnam war movie ever 5 stars
11/07/04 R.W. Welch Early Air Cav op is effectively portrayed. Gibson quite convincing here. 4 stars
9/12/04 Donald Jacobsen Like DJ said, WTFPWNT 5 stars
8/14/04 Kenneth Curtis Best Vietnam movie I've ever seen. Really captures what the men went through then. 5 stars
7/30/04 DJ Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
7/18/04 Gynov Like Dan said, a great movie about LZ X-ray. 5 stars
4/22/04 Jamie Kennett One of the most moving war films ive seen 5 stars
4/01/04 Nick Byram Negative critics blinded by ideology. Great show of war horrors and brotherhood of troops 5 stars
12/07/03 J Explosive!!!! *** 1/2 out of 4 5 stars
11/12/03 Luke the knife attached to the M16.so cool 4 stars
11/09/03 Jim You pussies that are calling this film down, obviously were never in the service! 5 stars
10/01/03 Lonnie Strang outstanding performances by All, the battle of that fateful day seemed to me to be very acc 5 stars
7/07/03 Daniel Stockman This was a wonderful, and realistic film about the battle of Lz-Xray in November 1965. 5 stars
6/22/03 Daniel P Holla i've seen better film on teeth, less depth than feather 1 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink Patriotic, overblown piece of propaganda shit. My shit is more tasteful than this crudeness 1 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Some good scenes. . . decent overall. 3 stars
2/04/03 torebel This is the movie my father (Vietnam Vet) had been waiting to see. 5 stars
2/02/03 Lord David Simplistic piffle - it was an awful war and deserves better than this 2 stars
2/02/03 G.C. Benwell worse than worst 1 stars
1/01/03 Millie Edwards I wish everyone would take the time to sit down and watch this movie. It is truly AWESOME! 5 stars
11/07/02 victor really good 5 stars
11/04/02 Massive Johnson badly done. i didn't know only pretty people went to vietnam. 2 stars
10/23/02 Phil M. Aficionado Expected ho-hum, but liked it plenty. Riveting action 4 stars
10/23/02 Phil M. Aficionado Expected ho-hum, but liked it plenty. Riveting action 4 stars
10/07/02 marco guerra how can people say 'good' ?iS THEIR BRAIN CONNECTED? 2 stars
10/01/02 woot Historically inaccurate, horribly cliched, meaningless. Read the book. 1 stars
9/29/02 Ryback good movie! Could have used some good music tho 4 stars
9/25/02 Eric Powerful and intense battle scenes. Gibson and Pepper are great. 5 stars
9/23/02 Jeff Mesenbrink THE ONLY REAL FUCKING VIETNAM MOVIE.......EVER!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/01/02 Doc Shock Enjoyable, but nothing special 4 stars
8/12/02 Richard Williams bloody AWESOME! , Gibson provided an excellent performance, Elliot & Pepper were also great 5 stars
8/07/02 Obi Wan Bring me the DVD copy w/plenty of goodies!! 5 stars
8/04/02 Michael Macias best war fim i ever saw 5 stars
8/01/02 loaded1200 Good Movie! 5 stars
7/04/02 KMG I like Mel. I don't like post-Patriot sugar-ass lets have 20 kids Mel. 3 stars
6/07/02 Allison Lafferty Poignant account of angst, grief, and terror of Vietnam War with fairness to all. 5 stars
5/21/02 Shrike Black Hawk Down doesn't have to worry about this stealing its thunder 3 stars
4/30/02 Sharron Great depiction of a true story. Pearl Harbor was ruined by a script rewrite,not R Wallace. 5 stars
4/29/02 Babybelle A moving and well performed story based on fact. Mel Rocks!! 5 stars
4/27/02 Gremlin Up there with platoon and Apocolapse Now. 5 stars
4/26/02 Joe Potvin It's all true. Hal Moore and Joe are just like that. Mel and Sam-You got it right. 5 stars
4/22/02 tom cruz fuc..... bulls.ht Mel. Remember US came with no reasons. Not worth fuc....$ 1 stars
4/17/02 John Garceau Powerful and emotional movie for those who know about Nam. Everything is true read the book 5 stars
4/15/02 John Wilkinson fantastic 5 stars
4/13/02 Don Norman Originally shows both sides without demonizing either. Honor and reality. 5 stars
4/10/02 Kelly Mears Damned good movie. Respected by the people that were portrayed in the movie. 4 stars
4/05/02 Scott Sumner Col. Moore, although a bonafide brave solider, should pull Mel's mouth out of his ass...... 3 stars
4/05/02 Obi Wan Really liked the film but I thought it should have more gore and war! 4 stars
3/30/02 Stuvaustin I was actually pretty dissapointed especially since I love war movies 3 stars
3/21/02 J.N. DeSantis You had to be there and return to understand 5 stars
3/21/02 The Man Not as good as most Vietnam movies, but still a valid entry, save for 2 VERY POOR scenes. 3 stars
3/12/02 spaceworm More to it than BLACK HAWK, and just as loud. 4 stars
3/12/02 Gavin M. Great Soundtrack, very intense, you get what you went for. 5 stars
3/10/02 sean horan Brilliant cinematography, unique point of view, up-close and personal combat and melodrama. 5 stars
3/10/02 Chris K. This film is directed by Randall Walace, the same dick that wrote PEARL HARBOR! Oh well. 1 stars
3/09/02 Russell L. Ross Moore, Galloway didnt get it right either 1 stars
3/09/02 Jeff Sappy, rah-rah Patriotism almost as freaky as Madeleine Stowe's new lips 3 stars
3/08/02 Obi Wan Powerful, Randall and Mel do it again!! A DVD Must Have!! 5 stars
3/07/02 Weird Andy The battle scenes are intense, but the melodrama(esp. the officers' wives stuff)is boring 3 stars
3/06/02 FriscoJohn One of the best of the current crop. 4 stars
3/05/02 Fenian One of the best war movies I've ever seen. 5 stars
3/05/02 Glenn Louderback riviting 5 stars
3/05/02 SablKnight One music-and-tinkling-shell-casings battle scene too many for my tastes. 3 stars
3/05/02 Todd Thank god those old war movies are dead and gone. 5 stars
3/04/02 G-Man Erik had to have his parents tuck him in after he saw it. 5 stars
3/04/02 NiceGlamourShotErik One of the Best War movies in the past 20 years 5 stars
3/04/02 StudMaster War movie fans will love it and most chicks will probably dig Mel and the family story. 5 stars
3/04/02 David Addison It is no surprise that Erik would sit through this movie and think about bowel movements. 5 stars
3/04/02 Patti Charron Erik the Movieman needs to grow up. 5 stars
3/04/02 Jesus Christ I condemn war. 1 stars
3/03/02 Dingus The Greatest War movie since the remake of Planet of the Apes 1 stars
3/03/02 dan a very accurate and realistic portrayal of the 1st Cavalry Division's baptism by fire 4 stars
3/02/02 Chris K. This is directed by Randall Walace, the same bastard who wrote PEARL HARBOR! Wow! 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  01-Mar-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-Apr-2002


Directed by
  Randall Wallace

Written by
  Randall Wallace

Cast
  Mel Gibson
  Madeline Stowe
  Greg Kinnear
  Barry Pepper
  Sam Elliot
  Keri Russell



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