Much was talked about this movie when it first came out, with the obvious comparisons made to Mel Gibson‘s other historical epic Braveheart, and those made me steer clear of the movie for a good while, although now I find myself wondering why after seeing it this weekend.
It rivals Saving Private Ryan for the realism and gore factor, bringing the devastation and personal pain involved in war right at you without flinching.
Gibson is strong in this role, but plays it at quite a lower key than he did in Braveheart, and it works really well. He really is a great actor, sure you can question some of his decisions and roles, but he can really pull off an emotional scene at both ends of the spectrum, and he has to show them all.
The film certainly shows how harrowing the first assault of the Vietnam war really was, and how utterly pointless it was. It was amazing to see the courage and strength of the young men involved, and then being shown the flip side with the cowardice and idiocy of the suits in charge and their disregard for the lives of the soldiers.
Although the movie concentrates on the US Soldiers it does turn to the Vietnamese Commander and show the similarities between them and their belief and love for their soldiers.
Something that strikes me about many of the US historical movies is their blatant disregard for history, and their total belief in the American way above all else. The US won World War II by themselves, they managed to break the hold of the German Submarines by finding and cracking their code machine and they leapt into action and poured destruction on the Japanese after Pearl Harbour.
None of this is seen in this movie, yes there is a strong American belief, but in this movie it’s much more real. The belief is there, but it’s from the soldiers who really believe in their Country and what they are fighting for, a feeling that was present in the real world before this war, and has struggled through since.
It is a great war movie, it’s also a very moving and harrowing one, showing what the Soldiers went through for their country and how their officials, and indeed their people, failed them.
However it’s not all good. The movie seems to have many swift cuts which are suited to the battle scenes, but not in transitions, and it begins to have the feel that there are portions of the movie edited out. This is certainly backed in the continuity of the story and how some crucial background and key scenes just seem to be raced through giving you the barest of information before heading off to another battle.
That really harms the movie for me, and it’s a shame because there is so much of this movie which is really, really good.