We Were Soldiers

By Richard Moore

The first battle between American troops and North Vietnamese regulars was in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 and was a vicious three-day firefight.

Just under 400 men from the just-created 7th air cavalry regiment found themselves cut off and up against 4000 NVA soldiers.

Led by Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) the US troops held out against the odds, although they needed massive artillery and air-ground support to survive.

We Were Soldiers is the story of the battle at Ia Drang and it is a no-holds barred war movie that is exciting, bloody and very moving.

For apart from non-stop battle scenes, the movie allows you to meet the families of the men who fought the battle and, more poignantly, lets you watch their wives as they receive telegrams delivered by taxis that tell them their loved ones are dead or wounded.

Madeleine Stowe plays Moore's wife Julie and she, with a junior officer's lady Barbara (Keri Russell) have important roles in the film that bring the human-cost balance to what could have been just a war movie.

The action is full on and the surrounded troopers must have known what it was like when George Armstrong Custer, also of 7th cavalry fame, found himself trapped and facing enemy hordes.

It is bloody, with bullets ripping people apart, and one really yukky scene where a napalmed-soldier's skin comes off in the hands of a guy trying to rescue him.

Gibson is the professional soldier Moore and plays it perfectly. He's God-fearing, family-loving and holds his boys very dear to his heart and while it would be easy to fall into a caricature of the top soldier, Gibson keeps it all in check.

Greg Kinnear is excellent as the regiment's head chopper pilot Major Bruce Crandall and the support cast includes such top talent as Sam Elliot, Barry Pepper and Chris Klein.

Elliott is the super tough Sergeant Major Plumley, Pepper is photojournalist Joe Galloway and Klein is the promising young lieutenant Jack Geoghegan.

All the characters are real, which adds greater emotional weight to We Were Soldiers, and the surviving ones are interviewed in the extras on the DVD.

The video transfer of We Were Soldiers is excellent with few visual problems.

One major one, however, was a glaringly obvious moire on a TV screen. The colours are excellent, the imagery generally very sharp and the sound is awesome.

We Were Soldiers is a first-class movie that in no way glorifies war, but does pay homage to the guys who actually go out to fight and their families.


Movie: 85%

DVD Extras: 80%


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