In 1965, 400 American troops faced an ambush by 2,000 enemy troops in the Ia Drang Valley (also known as the Valley of Death), in one of the most gruesome fights of the Vietnam War. WE WERE SOLDIERS is a detailed recreatio... more »n of this true story: of the strategies, obstacles, and human cost faced by the troops that participated. The story focuses on the lieutenant colonel that led the attack, Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), and a civilian reporter who accompanied them, Joseph Galloway (Barry Pepper), as well as a number of other soldiers who were involved. This is an unusual Vietnam film in that it also shows the North Vietnamese perspective on the battle; their leader Lieutenant General Nguyen Huu An (Don Duong) is depicted as a brave soldier and smart commander. And in addition to the many gory battlefield sequences--which seem to have been influenced by SAVING PRIVATE RYAN--we also see how the carnage of war affects those left behind, the soldiers' wives and children. Ultimately this is a moving anti-war film, which, by sticking close to the true stories of real soldiers, very effectively brings home the overwhelming horror of war.« less
Robert S. from ROCK SPRINGS, WY Reviewed on 7/2/2013...
This Gibson war story is a well-made movie serving a dubious purpose. In the larger scheme of things, the VN war is presented as a kind of massive football game, with good players on both sides. The questions of whether one side was a systematic aggressor and pursued a technowar equivalent to war crimes never, of course, come up.
Mel mixes in a lot of flag juice and Jesus mumbline, and the wives are all wondrously loyal and courageous. Would that all of this were so....
Tina R. (Recor3) from MORRISONVILLE, NY Reviewed on 2/14/2010...
A GREAT movie. It really brings the heart of the Vietnam into perspective. I would highly recommend.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Susan W. from FRANKLIN, TN Reviewed on 1/14/2010...
Gritty, realistic look at war from the persective of the soldiers in the trenches. My husband was in Viet Nam, and says this is by far the most realistic movie he's ever watched about that period in history.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Lee P. from BELVIDERE, IL Reviewed on 8/25/2009...
Love the movie. Great action sequences, great portrayal of the often forgotten pain and anguish that the wives at home went through.
Sherrye F. from HOUSTON, TX Reviewed on 11/27/2007...
I could not watch it all - so violent.
1 of 7 member(s) found this review helpful.
A 1st Cav. Vietnam Vet Comments on "We Were Soldiers"
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 03/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I live with a Vietnam Vet who served in the late 1960s with 1st Cav. Medivac. During service he earned two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. Since WE WERE SOLDIERS concerns the 1st Cav., Randy wanted to see it. I reluctantly agreed; I am not partial to war films and I dislike Mel Gibson, and Randy is very hard on Vietnam War films. He dismisses PLATOON as a Hollywood 8x10 glossy; says APOCALYPSE NOW is an interesting movie that captures the paranoia, but all the technical details are wrong; and describes DEER HUNTER as excellent in its depiction of the strangeness of coming home but so full of plot holes that he can hardly endure it. And about one and all he says: "It wasn't like that."He was silent through the film, and when we left the theatre I asked what he thought. He said, "They finally got it. That's what it was like. All the details are right. The actors were just like the men I knew. They looked like that and they talked like that. And the army wives too, they really were like that, at least every one I ever knew." The he was silent for a long time. At last he said, "You remember the scene where the guy tries to pick up a burn victim by the legs and all the skin slides off? Something like that happened to me once. It was at a helicopter crash. I went to pick him up and all the skin just slid right off. It looked just like that, too. I've never told any one about it."In most respects WE WERE SOLDIERS is a war movie plain and simple. There are several moments when the film relates the war to the politics and social movements that swirled about it, and the near destruction of the 1st. Cav.'s 7th Battalion at Ia Drang clearly arises from the top brass' foolish decision to send the 7th into an obvious ambush--but the film is not so much interested in what was going on at home or at the army's top as it is in what was actually occurring on the ground. And in this it is extremely meticulous, detailed, and often horrifically successful. Neither Randy nor I--nor any one in the theatre I could see--was bored by or dismissive of the film. It grabs you and it grabs you hard, and I can easily say that it is one of the finest war movies I have ever seen, far superior to the likes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, which seems quite tame in comparison.Perhaps the single most impressive thing about the film is that it never casts its characters in a heroic light; they are simply soldiers who have been sent to do a job, and they do it knowing the risks, and they do it well in spite of the odds. Mel Gibson, although I generally despise him as both an actor and a human being, is very, very good as commanding officer Hal Moore, and he is equaled by Sam Elliot, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, and every other actor on the battlefield. The supporting female cast, seen early in the film and in shorter scenes showing the home front as the battle rages, is also particularly fine, with Julie Moore able to convey in glance what most actresses could not communicate in five pages of dialogue. The script, direction, cinematography, and special effects are sharp, fast, and possess a "you are there" quality that is very powerful.Randy did have a criticism. "I don't think there would be time for casualty telegrams to actually get home while the battle was going on," he said. "After all, it only lasted three days." I myself had a criticism; there were points in the film when I found the use of a very modernistic, new-agey piece of music to be intrusive and out of place. And we both felt that a scene near the end of the movie, when a Vietnamese commander comments on the battle, to be improbable and faintly absurd. But these are nit-picky quibbles. WE WERE SOLDIERS is a damn fine movie. I'll give Randy, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the last word: "It may not be 'the' Vietnam movie. I don't think there could ever be 'the' Vietnam movie. But they get everything right. That's how it looked and sounded, and that's what I saw, and this is the best movie about Vietnam I've ever seen.""
Perhaps the most realistic modern battle scenes on film
W. R. Stockstill Jr. | Marietta, GA United States | 06/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is war and it truly is hell. Outnumbered on the field and backed by the politically driven Defense Department of the time, one battalion finds itself outnumbered and fighting for its life in the jungles of Vietnam.
A recent reviewer here mistook what this movie was about. It is NOT about America's war in Vietnam and all the ideology behind it. Its about a battle that occurred in the early years of that war between a new type of specialized fighting unit and a very determined enemy. America wanted to engage the enemy for the first time and this is the battle. The only politics involved here is the decision not to declare a National Emergency thus allowing the Army's most experienced soldiers to leave at the end of their enlistments, when ironically they were most needed. This movie is about a battalion commander training his unit, getting orders and shipping off to war. It also gives an excellent look at what the wives had to endure during that terrible time.
If one wants to look at the politics of this war, check out HBO's Path to War. Path to War shows the speech were LBJ sends this unit, the Air Cav, to Vietnam and the political reasoning behind it. It goes through LBJ's escalation and McNamera's change of heart on the winnablity of the war. Highly recommend it.
Anyway, in realism this ranks up there with Saving Private Ryan. By reading the book you get a much better grasp of what happened as well as the story not told of what happened at LZ Albany. That encounter was even a worse then what happened at LZ X-Ray.
All told this movie gives the feel of how horrible, horrowing and confusing first-hand combat can be. One decision can lead to winning the day, or as the movie shows, getting yourself cut off and most of your men killed. As for accuracy to what occurred, a group of soldiers that were there appeared on The History Channel's "Hollywood vs History" program and they concurred that it was 75-80% factual. 20 - 25% Hollywood. That's probably a good ratio indeed. Oh, and the little American Flag at the end was real, not Hollywood. And Sam Elliot deserves an Academy Award for his portrait of American Hero Sgt. Major Basil Plumley."
Who Can Explain Such Things?
Reviewer | 03/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title of the memoir that inspired this film, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young," written by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, says much about what this film ultimately conveys, as in a few words it addresses the state of being of the individuals, as well as the country, which so soon would be embroiled in one of the most controversial wars in the history of America. "We Were Soldiers," adapted for the screen and directed by Randall Wallace, is an uncompromising look at war and the commitment of those who wage it. It's a true story told realistically, and moreover, in terms that are humanistic rather than political, which succeeds in making it a riveting drama that is both absorbing and emotionally involving. It's November, 1965; some 400 American troops-- the 7th Cavalry-- led by Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), take the field at LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, where they are quickly surrounded by over 2000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The ensuing battle will last for three days, and it marks the first major confrontation between America and North Vietnam, a battle from which many, on both sides, will not walk away; and on hand to record it as it happens, is reporter Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper). Going in, Moore knows what they are up against, and he promises his men two things: That he will be the first to set foot on the field and the last to leave it; and he will bring every man back home with him, alive or dead-- no one will be left behind. And it's a promise he keeps. With this film, Wallace succeeds where two other, recent depictions of historic battles, "Pearl Harbor" and "Black Hawk Down"-- both good films in their own right-- failed; and it's because he managed to achieve just the right balance between the rendering of the battle itself and the human element involved. Of the two, "Pearl Harbor" is a close runner-up; the love story leading up to the battle was perhaps a bit extended, though ultimately engaging, whereas "Black Hawk Down" put the viewer in the battle, but was emotionally uninvolving. Here, Wallace not only gives you a battle that is brilliantly staged and presented, but before he takes you there he makes sure you know those who are about to die, and the loved ones they are leaving behind. War has many casualties, and they are not all on the battlefield; and beyond the realism of the fight, this is where Wallace makes his strongest statement, as during the three days of the battle he makes you privy to what the soldiers wives and families are going through at home, as well, waiting for the dreaded Western Union telegrams being delivered by cab drivers because the army wasn't prepared to deal with it. The film is effective because Wallace keeps the human element at the heart of the story while he presents a perspective to which the audience can relate on very personal terms. In short, he gives you the "whole story," that enables you to know the horror of the firefight, as well as the throat clenching terror of seeing a yellow cab drive up to the front of your house, knowing full well what it means. This is a prime example of filmmaking and storytelling at it's best; and it's a commendable achievement by Wallace. Gibson is perfectly cast and does an excellent job of bringing Hal Moore to life with a convincing portrayal of a man dedicated to both his family and his life as a soldier. Moore is focused and determined, and Gibson makes us realize that he knows the seriousness of what he is about to undertake, as well as the possible dire consequences thereof. The real strength of the character, however, is in the fact that he is not some kind of superhero out to win the war single-handedly, but a man who lives and loves and feels like anyone else, who bleeds when he is cut and hurts when he loses one of his men. A man who feels guilty that he is still living when his men die. And it's all captured in Gibson's strong and credible performance. Besides Gibson, there are a number of exceptional supporting performances in this film, most notably, Madeleine Stowe, as Julie Moore, Hal's wife; Sam Elliott, as the gruff and seasoned veteran, Sergeant Major Basil Plumley; Greg Kinnear, as Major Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot with a memorable nickname; Chris Klein, as Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan, a new father to whom Moore gives a perspective on the war that enables him to face the job he must do; Keri Russell, as Barbara Geoghegan, the young wife and new mother who must watch her husband go off to fulfill his destiny; and Pepper, turning in an extremely affecting performance as Joe Galloway. The supporting cast includes Ryan Hurst (Sergeant Savage), Mark McCracken (Ed "Too Tall" Freeman), Edwin Morrow (Willie), Jsu Garcia (Captain Nadal), Matt Mangum (Private Soprano), Brian Tee (Nakayama), Joseph Hieu (NVA Major), Don Duong (Ahn), Alan Dale (Westmoreland) and Simbi Khali (Alma). A film like this goes far in demonstrating the power and effectiveness of the medium that created it; it will never, however, enable us to understand war, because war-- in all it's myriad manifestations-- is beyond human comprehension. But it has always been with us and always will be, and a film that is well made and presented, a film like "We Were Soldiers," is important because it lends a needed perspective that allows us to take a step back and consider the magnitude of our endeavors in these regards, and the price we must pay for freedom. It leaves one with a sense of pride and patriotism, but tempered with a sobering concern for seeking altruistic alternatives. It may be only a dream; but hopefully, it's one that someday all the people of the world will share."
Been there & Done That
Phil | 10 miles North of "George, Washington" | 08/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Envision, if you will, a landing zone about the size of a football field. Think of Grass & Brush so thick when you go prone your world becomes the 12 inches you can see. This is the real thing!!Lived and served with the survivors of this and the related battles at Ira Drang. Col Moore is the "Man" and the 'Troopers" All American. Missed comments and inclusion of "Hard Core" Hero Rick Rescola who ended up with the Bugle and saved lives at Ira Drang and in New York on 9-11-01.Hollywood note: "Bullets when they hit go in with little if any marks but coming out leave horrible wounds. When you see the film and the erupting impact of bullets just realize they may not be hitting from the front and you will feel accruacy in the film.If you haven't seen this film, get the book, Read the book and taste the truth, then watch the film knowing it is as true as Hollywood can make it yet does not tell it all. Garry Owen!!"
Shocking news concerning actor of "We Were Soldiers"
peterdao | Springfield, VA United States | 11/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just came across this Reuters 11/11/02 news story concerning "We Were Soldiers" and "Green Dragon" and was shocked by what's happening to one of the actors. Thought I would share it with all viewers out there, whether you have watched or intend to watch those two films."A Vietnamese actor branded a traitor by the Hanoi government and placed under virtual house arrest for appearing in an American-made Vietnam War film has broken his silence to call the charges against him "ridiculous" and "cruel.""Don Duong, who played a Vietnamese officer opposite Mel Gibson in "We Were Soldiers," and a refugee in the 2001 film "Green Dragon" opposite Patrick Swayze, defended his work in a letter released this week by family members in California. Duong's relatives have said the 45-year-old actor has been placed under house arrest and restricted from traveling and could face jail time. "We Were Soldiers" depicts the battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam's Central Highlands in 1965, in which men from the 7th Air Cavalry led by Lt. Col. Hal Moore, played by Gibson, overcame a more experienced and much larger North Vietnamese force.""Gibson and others in Hollywood, including Duong's "Green Dragon" co-stars Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker, actor Harvey Keitel and "Soldiers" director Randall Wallace, have called for leniency in his case.""