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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look58.33%
Average: 8.33%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 6 user ratings

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Siege of Firebase Gloria, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"Vivacious Vietnam Tale"
4 stars

Deserved a far wider theatrical release than it got at the time.

The Australian production The Siege of Firebase Gloria might just be the single most underrated Vietnam War film ever made, with its most admirable attribute given such major productions by Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now), Oliver Stone (Platoon), Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket), and Brian De Palma (Casualties of War) is its simplicity. The story centers on a long-range-reconaissance unit whose helicopter is shot down and crashlands at a dilapidated American outpost whose heavy-duty pothead of a commanding officer has left his men demoralized and complacent, thus making them incredibly vulnerable to a nearby Vietcong unit's regular attacks. The newcomers led by R. Lee Ermey's Sergeant Major Hafner and Wings Hauser's second-in-command Corporal DiNardo take that lackadaisical CO out of commission, restore some order, and start whipping the soldiers into disciplined fighting mode. If this sounds like familiar stuff, you needn't worry, in large part because Ermey, whose iconic intonations as the martinet of a basic-training drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket are already legendary, and Hauser, who played vivid heroes in Deadly Force and Mutant (not to mention one hell of a villain before those in "Vice Squad"), are so enigmatic and forceful they practically transcend their familiar roles - it were almost as if they'd never been played before. This outpost is the main setting, and director Brian Trenchard-Smith makes it a geographically distinctive place while at the same time giving it amazing visual variety - he did something similar in the fine post-apocalyptic cult classic Dead End Drive-In. (John Irvin tried something similar with Hamburger Hill the year before in depicting an unwinnable little battle that U.S. bureaucratic suits in Saigon were willing to sacrifice their servicemen over for purely political reasons, but his handling was too formally controlled for my taste.) The movie was made in the Philippines and has authenticity to spare, with the secondary characters unusually well filled in; most surprisingly, the Vietnamese general in charge of the opposing forces (persuasively etched by the talented Rey Cerdena) atypically three-dimensional - he's never a standard cinematic "heavy." Oh, you can foresee a couple of zip codes away the inevitable fates of one short-time soldier and one who's found himself taking protective custody of an orphaned Vietnamese child (you just know he's going to ultimately sacrifice for him), but The Siege of Firebase Gloria is thankfully absent of the dramatic inertness of Coppola's and Kubrick's entries, the simplicity and triteness of Stone's, though De Palma's still holds up fairly well. Contextually, it's probably the best of this subgenre since Ted Post's 1978 Go Tell the Spartans, but I think this one is far better filmed (the evocative use of red-phosphorus flares is especially beautiful). It's something of a genuine classic of consummate intelligence and craftsmanship.

For fans a very nice Blu-Ray has been released.

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originally posted: 09/26/20 09:21:03
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User Comments

8/27/10 R.W. Welch Essentially "Zulu" transfered to V.Nam, but Zulu was better. 3 stars
6/20/07 George Chabot The top fictional Vietnam action film. Must see! 5 stars
12/31/03 W.E. Bevill Great true action Nam flik. Great guy flik. Not for girls. 5 stars
12/17/03 Stryker WHOOOOYHAAAA 5 stars
11/10/03 y2mckay R Lee Ermy and an astronomical body count. What more do you need in a vietnam flick? 4 stars
11/08/03 Natalie Stonecipher One of less charismatic but more insightful of Vietnam War movies. 5 stars
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  27-Jan-1989 (R)



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