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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look42.42%
Average: 12.12%
Pretty Bad: 3.03%
Total Crap: 9.09%

1 review, 27 user ratings

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Hamburger Hill
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by MP Bartley

"'I found mah ki-ill...on Hamburger Hi-ill'"
4 stars

Vietnam. We've all been there, seen it, got the t-shirt. Usually with Oliver Stone or Francis Ford Coppola for company. We all know it was bad and wrong and the US shouldn't have been there. We all know that there were some seriously messed-up people fighting over there and that some atrocities were amongst the worst ever committed during a war. But did anyone ever think to consider that there were some decent guys over there, people who only realised they only got into the war for the wrong reason too late? John Irvin did.

Hamburger Hill was the name given to a particular hill in the Anchau valley, which saw some of the fiercest and most drawn-out fighting seen in the war. It was a battle that will never be forgotten by those who fought in it, but it's a shame that the film has been forgotten and over-looked by bigger, but not necessarily better films.

The attack on Hamburger Hill is led by Seargeants Franz (Dylan McDermott) and Worcester (Steven Weber), alongside the novice Languilli (Anthony Barille), Washburn (Don Cheadle) and the disillusioned and slightly unhinged Doc Johnson (Courtney B. Vance). It's interesting to note that with the exception of Cheadle, none of the cast ever went onto bigger and better things. This works in the films favour as the cast of the relative unknowns make what could have been cliched, relatively new. So while we may have all seen countless war films featuring soldiers pining for their sweethearts, the fact that these actors come with no pre-conceptions or baggage, means we buy into their situation more.
So while some of the dialogue about the meaning and purpose of the war may be clumsily pushed into the middle of the film, the actors just give it a fresh approach and a quiet dignity.

Make no mistake, 'Hamburger Hill' has nothing new to say at all but doesn't mean it shouldn't be listened to however. So while it may be slightly cheap-looking in places, inventive editing means you can barely tell the join between paper trees and an explosion over the top of it. And Irvin displays the rare talent of having a good sense of place and space. While a lot of Vietnam movies are content to have the troops trudge around in the jungle with no sense of where they're going or how far they've gone, we get the sense of just how far these guys have advanced and how much ground up the hill they've gained.

Irvin stages the battle scenes well with a steady hand. One battle set in a torrential storm with the hill turning into a mud-bath beats the hell out of anything 'Platoon' or 'The Deer Hunter' has to offer. He also takes the time to invest in the after effects of battle, with one long, aching stare from a soldier after a particularly fierce fight summing up the horror of war with no dialogue whatsoever.

If Cheadle is the only one to make a decent career after 'Hamburger Hill', he's by no means the only talent on show here. Vance is the tortured heart of the film, but Weber and McDermott are the stars here, as exhausted men thrust into command with mens lives in their hands when they'd really rather just go home. A confrontation between McDermott and a tv crew and Weber outlining just why he joined up are superb and haunting moments.

'Hamburger Hill' is an unpretentious war movie, but with a lot of class. It never seeks to impart a big message apart from 'war is Hell' but it never wraps itself blindly in the stars and stripes either. There have been better war movies before it and there have been better movies after it...but not many.

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originally posted: 07/08/04 23:49:48
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User Comments

12/08/17 morris campbell awesome underrated vietnam flick 5 stars
10/27/13 Robert Lindsey This is Vietnam, as realistically and hellishly as it will ever be shown... 5 stars
12/25/10 VN vet 71 the most realistic VN movie ever made. Has "THE FEEL" of VN 5 stars
4/14/10 matt A single helmet rolling down a hill 5 stars
8/15/09 Jeff Wilder Not a bad Vietnam pic. 4 stars
2/22/08 davod thomas i like the fact it takes a more neutral approach and tries to portray a realistic account 4 stars
2/04/08 Pamela White shows the blood of war 4 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini good gore. 5 stars
11/21/05 Bill This movie is outstanding, and not at all like Platoon, or 'lypse Now 5 stars
11/21/04 Pinkline Jones Northerly, I now know why some animals eat their own young 1 stars
11/14/04 jb most realistic movie about vietnam. I know i was there. 5 stars
9/30/04 samuel a pile of shit 1 stars
7/21/04 Northerly Pinkline is unemployed trailer trash 3 stars
7/17/04 legend Passable acting probably made this film bearable. 3 stars
11/29/03 Jaron Decent enough, definetly worth a look... 4 stars
7/27/03 J The fighting is fierces and bloody. 4 stars
3/11/03 Estevan Lapena Pinkline Jones is a loser, He rates movies badly. He said the same for Clockwork Orange. 4 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones Weakest film about Hamburgers ever made. Porky's Revenge vastly superior. 1 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby One of the best Vietnam pics. Way better than overrated "SPRyan". 5 stars
11/29/02 Charles Tatum GOOD, there is more realism here than in ten SPRs 5 stars
2/01/02 R.W. Welch Good on combat realism but no real standout aspects. 3 stars
5/05/00 matt J-Dogg, if I saw you, I would kick the living ---- out of you, you darn geek!!! 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg So cheap and obvious w/ bad acting. I never liked this and never will. See "Platoon." 2 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Good Vietnam fodder, but there is better out there. 4 stars
6/08/99 lucas jackson thgis was a great picture about the horrohs of Vietnam 4 stars
11/25/98 Fred Best Vietnam movie ever! Do your homework, and little things will appear. 5 stars
11/23/98 Lord Of The Dunce Good film but lost it's direction by over-politicising. 3 stars
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  02-Feb-1988 (R)


  02-Jul-1988 (R)

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