Movie Review
We Were Soldiers
We Were Soldiers poster
By Craig Younkin     Published July 15, 2002
US Release: March 1, 2002

Directed by: Randall Wallace
Starring: Mel Gibson , Madeleine Stowe , Greg Kinnear , Sam Elliott

Running Time: 138 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $78,122,718
Has a lot to offer
"We Were Soldiers" is yet another war movie that preaches values and unity from every angle, but as soon as the lights go up you still have the same newfound respect for the war heroes who died serving this country. The film was directed and written by Randall Wallace, the scribe of Mel Gibson?s Oscar winning "Braveheart", but sadly last year?s dud, "Pearl Harbor".

Here, Mel shapes him back into old form with this adaptation of Lt. Col Hal Moore?s book "We Were Soldiers?and Young". The book describes the first bloody battle of the Vietnam War where he led an outnumbered group of young American men to a minor victory in a war that would become a much larger conflict later on.

Mel Gibson plays Moore, who begins the film being relocated so he can train the young men, some with wives who are about to have children. Moore is a man who appears to be a very moralistic leader, one who believes deeply in God, country, family and the men he is assigned to train. He acts not only as a soldier but as a father to them, answering questions and easing any fears they may have. He acts the same way toward his own family.

This strong feeling of unity among soldiers and family leads to one of the most powerful portions of the film, as these men are called into battle, some knowing that they may never see their wives or their children again. His troop, known as the Seventh Cavalry, has been assigned to the Ia Drang Valley, a very tough place to overtake because of the rough terrain.

Little do they know that they are stepping right into an ambush. The casualties suffered to the seventh are tremendous, and many of Moore's troops find themselves trapped in the mountains by the Viet Cong. Helicopters come in and out to collect the wounded and the dead, and to supply reinforcements. One such person is a reporter named Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper), who would later go on to write the book with Moore.

Much like Black Hawk Down, this film contains graphic, as well as dramatic, battle sequences and stresses the point of unity among soldiers and family. But what it also does is make us more aware of the people who lost their lives for this country, and it portrays that message clearly and very effectively. It gives each American a human face, representing all minorities, and makes their wives into more than just clich?s. One thing I?m glad the film showed is how Moore?s wife (Madeline Stowe) took it upon herself to deliver the death notices to each dead soldier?s wife. Wallace luckily knows that war is also a struggle at home, and the back and forth offers a much more emotional effect

Wallace also allows us to understand their adversaries. He thankfully shows them as people with families and religious beliefs, and not the ruthless, one-dimensional villains of "Black Hawk Down".

The performances are also very good. Mel Gibson balances heroism and compassion very well, while Sam Elliot is perfect in both a humorous and serious way as Moore?s intimidating second officer in command. Madeline Stowe serves as a key standout though, one because she is the main wife in the film, and two because she gives her character an inner strength and hope beneath worry and sadness.

I don?t know if I can call "We Were Soldiers" better than "Black Hawk Down", but I can say that it has a lot more to offer. The film occasionally goes into melodrama, but it is a story of tremendous sacrifice and courage, and it deserves to be seen and told.
Craig's Grade: B
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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