We Were Soldiers looked promising like any movie does with its trailer, but it misfires like hell. What’s more disappointing about this film is that it was based on a true story, and for most part of the movie, it feels more like a bad rip-off out of better movies like Hamburger Hill or The Thin Red Line besides being a dumb stupid, tiresome and never-believable war drama. Even though a strong message is given in the end, plus the already overstated message of War Is Hell, it just isn’t enough to save this film from being a major misfire. Once again, Writer/Director Randall Wallace anally rapes a historical event almost the same way that he did Pearl Harbor. For Christ sake, his script is pretty much stupidly written and as pathetic as his directing skills, which are practically nonexistent.As said, the film is a true story about Colonel Harold G. Moore (Mel Gibson) and his bloody but heroic and also tragic battle of the Valley of Death in Vietnam. Moore and his 400 soldiers (most of them whom are husbands and fathers) descent into a valley designated Zone X-Ray in Vietnam, assigned to seek and destroy hostile forces. Among his soldiers were Major Bruce “Snakeshit” Crandall (Greg Kinnear), Moore’s fellow Sergeant Basil Plumley (Sam “Custer Is A Pussy But I’m A God Damn Cowboy” Elliot), 2nd Lt. Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), and War journalist Joseph Galloway (Barry Pepper), who joins halfway through the battle. Moore was always fearful of a similar massacre that the French suffered in Vietnam during the 30’s or 40’s, and also just like the massacre of Custer and his army in the hands of the Indians. None of them knew that there were already 2,200 Vietnamese soldiers waiting for them. The ensuing battle was to be one of the most savage and disastrous battles of the Vietnam War.
"Disappointing, Been There, Done That, Lot Better"
Smells like Black Hawk Down doesn’t it? This film would’ve qualified, as a Black Hawk Down rip-off, but doesn’t, for the simple fact that is a true story. But one way it still feels like a rip-off, only more colored and more soft, due to the fact that the movie shows you the wives club and their troubles and worries as their husbands are off to fight the war. One of the two main problems that this film has is that is too soft and too stupid. The film checks up on the families of the soldiers, but at times Wallace overdoes it, and turns the film into a wannabe soap opera. Obvious traces of this can be traced back to Wallace’s debacle Pearl Harbor. This makes the movie look too sentimental and too soft. The only thing that Wallace needed to do was to do a love triangle between any of the leads around here. The wives’ scenes were at times stupid (the racism discussion, why was it there?), and during the conflict and them dealing with themselves alone, it’s just anti-climatic. There are little feelings about the women of the soldiers, who more behave like robots. We’re supposed to feel sorry as the two women Mrs. Moore (Madeleine Stowe) and Mrs. Geoghegan (Keri Russell) go on to deliver the death telegrams, we never do. We just stare blankly at the screen since were more in awe of the wooden performances that they give and also at the shoddy directing that Wallace does in these parts.
The stupid part takes place during the battle scenes. Again, Wallace treats the Vietnamese as ignorant yellow trash, who go off and fight the ever-mighty Americans. One thing, why is it that the Vietnamese are treated this way? They are seen as The Evil Army, and also, as a bunch of piss-poor gung hos that don’t even know how to shoot a bloody rifle (The scene where our brave Vietnamese charges against Moore when he could’ve easily shot him from that distance). Then those two awfully stupid and ridiculously funny night ambushes were also a groaner, since again, the Vietnamese are depicted as a bunch of fucking idiots, while the Americans are smarter than hell. What the fuck is it with that? It’s an insult because, for Christ sake, the Vietnamese on their own ground, know every inch of their land, and still beaten so stupidly by the Americans? Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, since the film is in fact a true story, or shields itself in the true story thing, but true story or not, Wallace has no right of forcing the issue of this American victory by treating the Vietnamese as a bunch of imbeciles. Then Wallace tries stupidly too add the same feelings that the American soldiers have for their loved ones, with the Vietnamese soldier who writes to his loved one. That was pretentious and one-sided since character development is virtually non-existent, and furthermore adds more insult to the injury as the entire scenario is so plastic. Anyone remember this very same scene in Pearl Harbor?
The worst and most idiotic scenes have to be the ones with hard-ass Sergeant Plumley. Sam Elliot was seriously miscast in this part. Randall, why the fuck did you cast a Cowboy for a soldier part? Gees-us man, Elliot was embarrassing here. I mean the fucker can kill more Vietnamese soldiers with his little 9mm pistol, without any cover, and acting the usual “Hardballs” cowboy, than any other man in the fucking squad. And as you see him, you won’t help but laugh and chuckle and say between yourself: “Good God, this guy is in the wrong fucking movie, he should go back to the Wild West where he belongs.” Gosh, that was so stupid.
The second part that fucks the film is that is too formulaic. I mean, we all know that War is Hell, we’ve seen it in lots of movies, movies 100 times better than this one, like Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down, Full Metal Jacket, hell, even Hamburger Hill. All of these movies at least brought something innovative to the genre of war, and that’s what makes them great, despite the fact about war. But in this film, Wallace plays it safe, and gives you the standard, redone version of how horrifying war is, which makes the story, the “true story,” even more predictable. Ok, it’s fine that we raise some patriotism because of what happened back in September 11, but for Christ Sake, elevate the status of patriotism into such piss-poor ways like in Pearl Harbor and this film is just stupid. Hell, at times this film makes John Wayne’s comical patriotic shitbag “The Green Berets” look like a classic. There are better ways to be patriotic Randall. Try Oliver Stones two classics Platoon and Born On The Fourth of July, those are two excellent patriotic films. This film was flawed pretty badly, and you can tell. The film’s final scenes and the message it delivered were powerful, and the message itself was deserving of an even better movie than this one here, or a better screenplay, since this one is truly a letdown.
The performances were mixed. Mel Gibson manages to save the film a little with his charismatic portrayal of Col. Moore. Barry Pepper redeems himself a lot after his painful experience in Battlefield Earth. Elliot is crap, and he should’ve been shot at when he said that Custer was a pussy. Gosh, so amateurish. The rest of the cast was okay, though most of the women were pretty wooden. Randal Wallace, your directing in some places is good (most of the battle scenes) but you need to improve. Also, go back to Screenwriting School, man, because that’s the 2nd true story you manage to fuck up again. You better do that or I’m going to have to throw a warning to all the libraries in the country to shoot you on sight if they see you walking in with your pencil and paper. We can’t tolerate another rip-off out of a true story.In the end, this film would’ve been great. If only? If you want to see it, go ahead, but strictly for popcorn entertainment. If I were you, I’d go watch better films like Black Hawk Down or Hamburger Hill, even better, dig out Platoon. This film disappoints, even more since it’s based on a true story, and all the men that fought and died in that battle deserved to be honored in an even better way than this movie did, “because they were soldiers… and young,” not just wooden characters for a cheap, formulaic Hollywood war movie.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5778&reviewer=235
originally posted: 03/19/02 14:20:41