Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

We Were Soldiers”  —  (2002)  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the film depicting the first major air-mobile battle of American forces in Vietnam in the Ia Drang Valley which occurred in 1965.  The movie stars Mel Gibson as the commanding officer Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and Madeleine Stowe as his wife:  Julia Moore.  Other main actors include:  Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein and Keri Russell.  Kinnear is a helicopter pilot;  Elliott is the battalion First Sergeant;  Klein is a junior officer (2nd Lieutenant) and Russell is his wife.
The basic plot shows how a “gung-ho” Army leader forms a unit, trains his officers / men to implement a new technology (helicopters and air-cavalry) and then leads them in a “major” engagement with the enemy.  Unfortunately, the engagement shown is Lt. Col. Moore is leading his men into a trap where his men are cut-off from direct (non-airbased) support, surrounded and heavily outnumbered:  roughly 10 to 1.  The bulk of the movie is about their three day battle to survive (“win”).  The essence of the Vietnam conflict is shown as superior American mobility and firepower (air and artillery) versus a dedicated / committed adversary willing to use close engagement (hand-to-hand) to negate the enemies strengths.
There are three “main” secondary plots / story lines:  1)  the effects of military life (death) on the families of the soldiers (limited to officer’s families);  2)  the civil rights / racial issues which were erupting in civilian society and getting carried into the military (depicted mainly on the family side);  and,  3)  combat leadership and how it differs from non-combatant and political leadership.  The first sub-plot is intertwined with the bulk of the combat portion.  The societal issues are mainly presented in the early portion (training) of the film – and, again, by the families / spouses.  The leadership sub-plot is just sprinkled in and is more implied than actually shown.  As it turns out, there were significant portions of this sub-plot which only appear in the “deleted scenes”.  I had to view these on YouTube as my version of the movie does not include the “extras”.
So, what did I think?  Is this a good movie?  Is it an accurate depiction of combat / war / military life?  Is this an “anti-war” movie or is it a glorification of war movie?  Were the sub-plots interesting / accurate?  And, lastly, to paraphrase “Gladiator“:  was I entertained?  In order:  yes;  yes;  more anti-war than I thought it would be;  yes – the sub-plots were interesting, accurate and important to the movie;  and finally, NO!  This isn’t an “entertainment” movie.  The time spent watching it was well spent, but while I can be entertained by over-the-top special effects / Sci-Fi movies, I don’t watch many horror / slasher movies and I don’t find realistic depictions of war “entertaining” – no matter how much I may “like” the film.  To me, it’s similar to reading a book to learn about something, versus reading a book to be entertained.  This is a “learning” film;  it is not an “entertaining” film
If you like(d) any of the more recent “war / combat” movies:  “Saving Private Ryan“, “Fury“, “Hacksaw Ridge” or “Black Hawk Down“, you will almost certainly “like” this film.  I liked all of the above and I liked this movie, too.  This film depicts heroism and personal risk / injury without a glorification backdrop.  The film shows combat:  brutality, chaos and terror.  In a refreshing turn, the movie shows the “enemy” in an almost equally positive light:  they are fighting for their country, on their land, and they have families “back home”, too.  This was one aspect of the film which I really did not expect as “the other side” is rarely shown in a positive light – otherwise, how would you understand you’re supposed to hate them and root for them to lose / die.
Anyway, as an amateur military historian, I found the first section (the character introductions) with the unit formation to be very interesting.  I found the description of the air-mobile infantry (Air-Cav) and the specific references to the unit combat limitations to be both accurate and insightful.  I found the sub-plots also accurate – as far as my limited experience was concerned, but maybe a bit too glossed over.  I was single during the 1970’s when I was on active duty, so all of my “personal” information about family life / support is really second hand.  The racial issues had not gone away between the film’s period (1965) and my service time (mid-70’s).  And, I don’t think there is ANY doubt (IMHO) the “Congressional / military / industrial complex” has only gotten worse since the 1960’s.
The film concludes with a visit by Col. Moore to the Vietnam Memorial “Wall” in Washington, D.C. and a list of the seventy-nine Americans who died in the battle.  It is an emotionally powerful scene on par with the cemetery scene in “Saving Private Ryan“.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  This is one of the “better” military genre movies I’ve seen in some time.  This is not an anti-war movie, but it also does not extrapolate the personal integrity and heroism of the individual American soldier on to the American government or senior military command structure.  A note of caution:  the combat scenes are brutal, realistic and sometimes horrifying.  This movie is not for the squeamish.
Final comment:  if you’re wondering why I’d never bothered to see this before…  Two reasons:  1)  I’m not an “all-in” / committed Mel Gibson fan.  I’ve enjoyed his directing more than his acting.  Also, 2)  when this movie came out I was not keen on supporting U.S. military adventurism around the world.  At that time, I wanted revenge for “9/11”, not occupation and nation-building in Afghanistan.  I did not support an invasion of Iraq and foreign government toppling.  I may have been wrong, but I viewed movies and TV shows in this genre as propaganda for the Bush Administration and a “war of choice” in Iraq.  Despite the quality of this individual movie (in that time period), I still hold that “propaganda” view / opinion.
On This Day In:
2021 On Learning To Play Guitar
When You’re Feeling Small
2020 Remember Your Obligation
Smile And Shuffle
2019 If One Is Lucky Enough
Basic Training (In Films)
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

Read Full Post »

Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry…
    ―    Thomas Jefferson
On This Day In:
2017 Visible Proof
2016 Poor Enough Means
2015 Still Standing
Follow Your Heart
2014 Just Reminded
2013 A Fine Balance
2012 One Measure
2011 Seeking The Common Ground
In Brightest Day…

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: