Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA/Germany, 2002. Icon Entertainment International, Motion Picture Production GmbH & Co. Erste KG, Wheelhouse Entertainment. Screenplay by Randall Wallace, based on the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young by Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway. Cinematography by Dean Semler. Produced by Bruce Davey, Stephen McEveety, Randall Wallace. Music by Nick Glennie-Smith. Production Design by Thomas E. Sanders. Costume Design by Michael T. Boyd. Film Editing by William Hoy.
Hold on to your butts, people, cause Mel Gibson is perverting history to make himself look cool again. This time it’s a war propaganda film about a war that America lost, if you can believe it, but focuses on a battle during the Vietnam war that actually was a success for its commander. For the first hour, we watch Mel prepare for duty by praying: he prays with his kids, he prays with his soldiers, he prays with his wife, he does nothing but pray, and just like in real life we know nothing about Mel’s spirituality or morality, only that he prays a lot and he’s a super person because he drags his wife and three thousand kids to church every week. Once he has trained his troops and actually gone off to battle, we are treated to thoroughly unbelievable battle sequences featuring zippo intensity and very little comprehensibility. Believe it or not, Rambo is more credible in its Vietnam battles than We Were Soldiers, and who would choose this film when movies like The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket are miles ahead of the game anyway? I suppose those films don’t present war as the most heroically beautiful thing in the world, which this one does and therefore ups its value for the time that it was produced. Madeleine Stowe and her bad hair keep the home fires burning and here the film actually goes out of its way to present, just like in The Patriot, an incorrect, whitewashed view of race relations in America. Both of these films are trying to convince us that we’ve actually all been getting along together all this time if only we’d known it (a character actually insists that she doesn’t know what the sign saying ‘Whites Only’ means on the window of her local laundromat), and in doing so they insult both those who did and those who still do suffer from societal racism. The boys who play the soldiers are all laughably modern looking and terribly forgettable, with Chris Klein giving the most idiotic performance in his series of idiotic performances and Greg Kinnear appearing as little more than window dressing in a throwaway helicopter pilot role. Randall Wallace, who penned Braveheart, writes a poor script here and directs with even less ability.