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"We Were Soldiers"

Directed by Randall Wallace.
Written by Randall Wallace.  Based on the book by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway.
Starring Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott and Greg Kinnear.
Release Year:  2002 

Review Date:  3/4/02 


I went out to the multiplex late tonight to see the new Mel Gibson film "We Were Soldiers."  I was absolutely, positively sure that--after seeing the trailer--this film was going to suck.  It looked not unlike "The Patriot"...which, looked not unlike "Braveheart."  My first thought was "Man, hasn't Mel done this film like, three times???"

Damn, was I wrong.  "We Were Soldiers" follows the efforts of Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Gibson) as he leads 400 American soldiers into "The Valley of Death" in a November 1965 skirmish that really happened.  The skirmish is made possible because of America's foray into helicopter assistance in Vietnam, so with the aid of a boatload of choppers, troops are continuously dropped off, ammo resupplied, and wounded are evacuated over the course of three days as Moore's soldiers are surrounded by Vietnamese militia.

And, much like the better "Black Hawk Down", once the skirmish begins, director Randall Wallace keeps the film going full throttle and a bunch of folks get slaughtered.  War movies seem to get more and more violent every movie now, instead of just every year, and "We Were Soldiers" seems to have more people get shot in the neck than any movie I can remember.  Oh, and you may want to close your eyes when the Chinese-American guy gets napalmed late in the film; most of my audience seemed to wish they had.

The film is just damned powerful, and that is not a word I say too often.  Partially because this is based on a true story, but also because the film does a great job of showing the lives of the soldiers' wives back in the US, the film has more going for it than your average Vietnam film.  Support by Barry Pepper, Sam Elliott (as the crusty sergeant), and Greg Kinnear is very good, as is the acting provided by TV's Felicity, Keri Russell, and Madeleine Stowe in the normally-thankless wife roles.  And, like any good epic war film, the score is good and rousing.

Hey, if you had to pick, I would see "Black Hawk Down" over "We Were Soldiers"...but, this is the rare case where sloppy seconds is not such a bad thing.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09