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We Were Soldiers

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: We Were Soldiers

Starring: Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott
Director: Randall Wallace
Rated: R
RunTime: 138 Minutes
Release Date: March 2002
Genres: Action, War

*Also starring: Clark Gregg, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, Barry Pepper, Madeleine Stowe, Keri Russell, Dylan Walsh

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

With America fighting terrorism around the world, it's eerie how many military movies were already set for release. This new war picture chronicles the first major engagement between American and Vietcong soldiers. The story begins with a bloody 1954 massacre of French troops by the Vietminh. Then the action jumps a decade to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the John Wayne-like hero appears in the form of Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), who later co-wrote "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young" with UPI photo-journalist Joseph L. Galloway (Barry Pepper). A Korean War vet and military history scholar, Moore is a devout Catholic family man who is told to prepare his men for helicopter combat. "We will ride into battle and this will be our horse," he says, pointing to a helicopter piloted by a daredevil called Snake (Greg Kinnear). But, as he confides to his crusty Sgt. Major (Sam Elliott), he's decidedly edgy when he discovers that, like Gen. George Custer, he's commanding the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the U.S. Army. Soon they're fighting a tense, brutal battle for survival on South Vietnam's Central Highlands, where they're surrounded by thousands of Vietcong and suffering tremendous losses. Meanwhile, back at home, stunned wives are receiving dreaded yellow sympathy telegrams informing them of their husbands' deaths. Despite many corny conventions and clichés, writer/director Randall Wallace ("Braveheart") wisely humanizes Moore and his men - also the North Vietnamese - so that their courage amidst the chaos of the three-day ordeal strikes an emotional chord. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "We Were Soldiers" is a harrowing, hellish 7. Make no mistake: this is a graphic, violent film about heroism and honor. If you want a political message, look elsewhere.

Copyright © 2002 Susan Granger

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