Directed by Randall Wallace, the film ‘We were soldiers’ was developed and released in 2002 as a dignified reminder of the scenes and issues involved in the Vietnam war and the crop of American heroes that emerged from the war. The film is based on Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway’s book ‘we were soldiers once… and Young’.
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In fact, it is worth noting that the two authors of the book were in the Vietnam war, Moore as a soldier and Galloway as a journalist. The film “we were soldiers” attempts to follow the story line in the book, with only some few diversions.
Although the film was developed in 2002, it is based on the battle scenes of the 1965 events in the Vietnam War, focusing on the first encounter between the American soldiers and the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese army. In this film, Lieutenant Moore (Mel Gibson) leads about 400 troopers, most of whom were inexperienced, from the US air force in a battle against some 2,000 Viet Cong troops (We were soldiers).
While the film focuses on the events on the battleground, it equally provides the viewers with a parallel story of the families and wives of the soldiers in the war as they grief for their relatives in the war.
In this review, an analysis of the war provides an insight into the actual scenes of the war and the reason why America was involved in the battle. In addition, this review aims at analyzing the film to describe how the war developed a crop of American heroes as well as the suffering and grief that their wives had to undergo back home in the US.
Unlike the previous movies based on the Vietnam War, ‘we were soldiers’ attempts to take a none-political platform by sticking to the true story by the book authors. By avoiding taking ambiguous social and political betrayals witnessed in various other Hollywood films, Randall Wallace, the director, has favored the basic aspects such as heroism within the context of a complicated storyline (Stewart 7).
First, the viewer is introduced to Lt Col Moore as he leads his 7th Calvary troops into the Valley of Death in Vietnam but is surrounded by a large army of North Vietnamese troops in the valley. In fact, Moore and his army are outnumbered ten-to-one, but the determined Moore is not ready to surrender but instead leads his mostly inexperienced troops against the Vietnamese troops.
In fact, the American soldiers are mostly naïve and young, and it is clear that almost all of them are in their first action on the battleground. However, under Moore’s leadership, the Americans bravely stage a fierce resistance against the Vietnamese army, which results in a three-day battle that leaves several soldiers dead and other injured on both sides.
The humanistic approach of the film seems to be well developed with an intention to describe the human nature of both the soldiers in the battlefront and their families back home. Right from the time of leaving America for Vietnam, the film shows how family relations are affected by the war.
It serves to provide the viewer with a first-hand experience of the gap created by the war, as it is shown as a major event that disrupted the harmony and relationship between husbands and their families. It further proves how difficult it is for the family members left behind as their husbands, sons, and brothers leave American for a battlefront thousands of miles away.
The emotional toll described by the film is a unique feature because most other films based on the Vietnam War mostly concentrate on social and political issues related to the war. Randall Wallace has attempted to bring into focus the emotional toll brought by the war to both the soldiers with Moore and their families back home.
For instance, the first quarter of the movie moves quite slowly to show relationships of soldiers with their families (Stewart 8). In addition, it attempts to describe the relationship between the soldiers and the military leaders in the American army. From this section, the viewers are introduced to the life of Moore, where it is disclosed that he has a loving family.
Moore has a loving and dedicated wife named Julie (Madeleine Stowe) and five children who are young. Although Moore is a dedicated soldier, the film reveals that he is much dedicated to his family as he is to his military duties. Their couple is praying together prior to the departure of Jack to the battlefield in Vietnam. This event is portrayed as a sad note because Jack has to go to the battlefront just a few hours after the birth of the first born.
While the American troops are in the war, the viewer is introduced to an American journalist Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper) (We were soldiers). Unlike the American troops who are out there to kill (and probably get killed), Galloway is interested in capturing and recording the events of the battle in images as well as writings so that he can relay them back home to allow the Americans and the world understand what was going on in the battle.
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At the height of the war, Galloway is instructed to shelve his camera and instead, hold on to a gun and participate in the war. Although he agrees and acts as a soldier, he later resumes his journalist tasks.
The human aspect of the battle at the Valley of Death attempts to disclose a number of other aspects of the war rather than the shooting events. For instance, the Vietnamese soldiers are shown to be a cunning and pitiless lot who are there to kill and destroy any invading person. Secondly, the viewer is introduced to the sorrows that grasp the brave Vietnamese soldiers when they realize a large number of colleagues they have lost in the battle.
Moreover, Sergeant Major Plumley plays an important role as a comedian on the battlefield, which keeps the soldiers’ attention relaxed despite the looming danger. It is also sad to note that Lt. Geoghegan ends up as a casualty of the war, which leaves his wife grieved and desperate, as she has to bring up the kid by her own.
However, the course of the film and the storyline revolves around the actions of Moore and Journalist Galloway, which shows the evidence of following the storyline in the book.
Overall, the cinematography of the film ‘we were soldiers’ is relatively striking as it is presented from the experience of a soldier and a journalist. Thus, it makes the viewers feel the effect of the war by making them feel as if they are part of the American team in the war.
For instance, blood oozing from shot American soldiers spatter on the screens of Galloway’s camera, which introduces the viewer to the experience of the journalist, who was not skilled in war. In addition, most of the events of the battle are shown in a slow-motion style in order to evoke emotions among the viewers. As the American soldiers and the journalist push through the valley of death, one feels as if he or she is a part of the team.
We were soldiers. Ex. Prod. Randall Wallace. Los Angeles, CA: Icon products. 2002. DVD.
Stewart, James. Heart of a Soldier. Simon & Schuster: New York, 2002. Print.