We Were Soldiers

Directed by Randall Wallace
Starring: Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, Josh Daugherty, Barry Pepper, Keri Russell.
MPAA Rating: R for sustained sequences of graphic war violence, and for language.

Review by Eugene Kopman <eugene@filmhead.com>
March 7, 2002

Is Hollywood running out of ideas or is it just me? Starting at the beginning of 2002, most released movies have been based on books. Those movies made good money opening weekend because people who read those books wanted to see what would happen when it goes to screen. Many people, including myself, were disappointed because those films were disappointing. A lot of those books-to-movies are based on war books like Hart's War and this one, which is based on the memoir We Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Hal Moore, the commander of the battle that the book and the movie depicts. Both movies... not so good. As a personal comment, it pains me to write a bad review to a Mel Gibson film, but unfortunately, I have no choice in the matter.

Gibson plays the aforementioned General Moore, who along with 400 other special force soldiers including his right hand man Sergeant Major Basil Plumley (Sam Elliott), new father Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein) and reporter Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper), enter the Vietnam territory in the same place where a French army was destroyed before them. Moore was comparing his battle to Custer's Last Stand because like Curster's battle, he expected to be destroyed by the 2,000 Vietnamese soldiers surrounding them. Obviously, many people were killed during both battles.

On the other end, Moore's wife, Julie (Madeleine Stowe), decided to console the wives of the killed soldiers by being the one who brings them the telegrams of their husband's deaths. She is joined by Jack Geoghegan's wife, Barbara (Keri "Felicity" Russel). The two walk around the military town from house to house handing telegrams.

There are a lot of things wrong with the movie. For starters -- we have Chris Klein. I do not know how he still gets cast in movies because his acting ability is along the line of Freddie Prinze, Jr.; in other words, he is terrible. He gives another plain performance that makes you question what people are thinking. Mel Gibson gives the performance you expect from a man of his acting ability. During a conversation between the two actors in the film, you see Gibson trying not to laugh at the acting of Klein.

Randall Wallace's directing is good; there are some nice battle scene shots, but the credit for that should go to the cinematographer, Dean Semler. Wallace has been trying to outdo himself after writing Braveheart, but with movies like The Man in the Iron Mask and Pearl Harbor under his belt, he is failing at having a good career. A lot of things don't make sense in the movie as well, but I don't want to give anything away.

My favorite part of the movie was Sam Elliott's performance of a grumpy officer. When a solder walks by him and comments on the weather, he responds, "What are you, the f***ing weatherman?" He and Don Duong, who plays the Vietnamese commander, were the best parts of the movie. It was also enjoyable to see Greg Kinnear, who plays a fighter pilot by the nickname of "Snakeshit", go insane after seeing a river of blood; you have to see that one for yourself.

Gibson is usually good at picking good scripts. Hopefully, his next film, Signs, which comes out in August, will be better.

Special thanks to Marco at the New Rochelle Regal Cinemas for providing the free screening.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
We Were Soldiers (2002)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
We Were Soldiers Once... and Young, a memoir by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway -- Paperback
We Were Soldiers Once... and Young, a memoir by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway -- Audio Cassette (read by Joseph L. Galloway)
We Were Soldiers: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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