Main cast: Mel Gibson (Hal Moore), Madeleine Stowe (Julie Moore), Sam Elliott (Sgt-Maj Basil Plumley), Greg Kinnear (Major Bruce ‘Snakeshit’ Crandall), Chris Klein (Lt Jack Geoghegan), Josh Daugherty (Ouelette), Barry Pepper (Joe Galloway), Keri Russell (Barbara Geoghegan), Edwin Morrow (Private Willie Godboldt), Mike White (SFC Haffner), Mark McCracken (Ed ‘Too Tall’ Freeman), and Jsu Garcia (Capt Nadal)
Director: Randall Wallace
We Were Soldiers panders so much to the glory of American goodness that me, a non-American, feels ill after a while. America, in the 1960s, according to this movie, is a pleasant, lovely Pleasantville-era where women stoically keep the home fires burning while their superhuman soldiers go off to war.
Indeed, this story, another war story to cash in the success of Saving Private Ryan and the current upsurge of American patriotism, pulls no stops when it comes to one-dimensional sentimentality. Hell, it’s based on this book called We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, and any book title with gratuitous abuse of punctuations for the sake of melodrama can’t be anything but saccharine.
The early stages of the Vietnam War is the setting of this movie. Since many today would debate the merits of this ill-fated war, the movie chooses to do away with any ambiguous matters that can tarnish the pristine sterling image of our heroes. So it doesn’t tell me why these soldiers are duking it out in Vietnam.
We have the noble leader (Mel Gibson), the maverick wisecrack who hides his idealism under a façade (Greg Kinnear), the young daddy (Chris Klein, full robot mode)… you name it, this movie has the soldier stereotype waiting in the wings. When they die, they whisper, “Tell my wife… I love her very much… ick!) while their wives get this premonition and tells their girlfriends tearfully, “When a soldier dies in battle, the first thing he says is ‘Tell my wife I love her very much…'” I’m so reassured that people in this movie are so predictable.
We Were Soldiers could have been a decent if formulaic movie, but the over-the-top sentimentality ruins everything for me. Maybe I’m just too cynical for a wholesome black-and-white movie like this that glorifies American soldiers like saviors of the free world, but at the end of the day, I just feel ill.