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We Were Soldiers (2002), R
Analysis Date: March 2, 2002
CAP Score: 56
CAP Influence Density: 1.74
WE WERE SOLDIERS (R) -- ...the Christian presence in this film was obvious ... and welcome.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Randall Wallace
Producers: Eveleen Bandy, Bruce Davey, William Hoy, Jim Lemley, Danielle Lemmon, Stephen McEveety, Arne Schmidt, Randall Wallace, Steve Zapotoczny
Written by/Screenplay: Joseph L. Galloway (book), Hal Moore (book), Randall Wallace (screenplay)
Cinematography/Camera: Dean Semler
Music: Nick Glennie-Smith
Editing: William Hoy
The density of 1965 Vietnam battle action and gore in this movie was massive, more so even than Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down. Much more so. And as is typical of war movies but not as typical as most, foul language speckled the script. That is just about all there is to the ignominy. There is no sleazy or steamy sex, no drunken brawls, no denial of God. It was a good example of the saying "There are no atheists in foxholes." Indeed, the Christian presence in this film was obvious ... and welcome.
Lieutenant Colonel Hal "I will leave no man behind" Moore (Mel Gibson), commander of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry (the same outfit as General Custer according to Moore) was a devoted father, was devoted to the Father and relied on the Father - through the Son. Several times. Unashamedly. Boldly. Gibson played well the part of a leader who was not ashamed of his faith and was strong enough to not be intimidated by political correctness. Regarding politics, this is not a political movie. Apparently, those responsible for We Were Soldiers are not ex-hippie malcontents, ten it seems of whom now wear long robes. Many have said - or warned - that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. It follows that the youth of yesterday are the leaders of today. Need I say more? We are paying for embracing the "don't stifle" teachings of the Spocks and Freuds of yesterday. There is a whole other story in these last four sentences which I will leave to your imagination.
Though this is just a movie which presents mounds (literally) of human gore and vicious brutality, it presents dozens of intense microcosms of Red, White & Blue heroism and integrity. Further, it did not present the "little boys in men's uniforms" arrogance against authority as seen in Black Hawk Down. An ethic of my own was displayed: the leaders were good leaders because they knew when and how to be good followers.
One of the acts of heroism not typically featured in the history books was the selfless attempted rescue of a fallen comrade by the "still wet behind the ears" Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein) ... getting killed in the process. During training maneuvers, Col. Moore had commented on how Geoghegan was a good leader because he noted how his men were behaving, setting them down and ordering them to take off their boots to inspect the feet of one of his men.
After some integral plot support and character-building time with their families, we see Col. Moore kissing his wife and walking to the bus stop. Alone. In the dark-thirty AM hours. From this thoroughly human, seemingly routine activity one might think that he was just going to work. Well, he was. His office was Vietnam and his computer was a machine gun. His staff was them who were called baby-killers by the malcontent hippies of the time, ten it seems of whom now sit in long robes.
The 7th Cavalry was shipped off to la Drang Valley of Vietnam. The la Drang Valley offensive was the first major offensive in Vietnam using helicopters as the prime vehicle of assault transport. With the experiential wisdom of Sergeant Major Basil Plumley (Sam Elliott), Col. Moore led a piecemeal band of some of the most unlikely heroes of all warfare history ... led them into history, straight to LZ X-ray (landing zone X). And there we start to see the tactics and maneuvers employed during the Vietnam war - err - the Vietnam police action. Here, the now famous sights of helicopters transporting men into and out of battle are shown. Sights of the warriors riding into battle on their iron pegasuses.
I can't put my finger on why, but We Were Soldiers was more "real" than Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. Even more real than Pearl Harbor. Maybe its more real flavor was because the warriors had a little more time for character development. Maybe it was because they appeared human, not cardboard mechanical characters displaying guts and gore. Maybe it was because this movie relied as much on the warriors back home. Part of the effectiveness - and part of the heroism - of this movie was found in the wives and families, two of the wives in particular: Col. Moore's wife, Julie (Madeliene Stowe) and Lt. Geoghegan's wife, Barbara (Keri Russell). Whether true to history, notices of deaths on the battlefield were carried back to the families by a cab driver (Dan Beene). Mrs. Moore decided this was not at all the right way to handle such gut-wrenching news and ordered the cab driver to bring all such notices to her from now on and she would handle getting the news to the families. Being empathetic of the demand on the one woman, Barbara became the second of this "home front battalion." True soldiers in their own rights in an example of fighting the battles at home.
Once in position, the battles begin. Know that We Were Soldiers is extremely graphic, beyond the guts and gore of Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. In one instance, an American soldier is burned by friendly fire and the moulage artists were amazingly complete in their work. One side of a soldier's face and neck were seared and charred to the point that the charred flesh cracked away in chunks exposing the red meat beneath. As many of you know, I am an ex-medic and I can say with credibility that in the few seconds the viewer was exposed to the trauma tissues, there was no way to tell the burned flesh and exposed meat was moulage.
I can't sanction the language and gore, but if any of you dads are looking for a non-file footage film to teach your sons about the horrors and brutality of warfare, both on the battlefield and the homefront, this is the one. I suspect that the Vietnam heroes still with us will tell you We Were Soldiers was about as realistic as a movie can get, both materialistically and emotionally. And any Vietnam combat hero reading this is welcome to add "his two cents" to it. Just send me your comments. You won't need to verify your authenticity. I'll take care of that. I will be happy to honor you and what you did for us by posting your take of We Were Soldiers with this as Guest Commentary. Already an email has provided the following (verbatim with names removed):
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*******Food for Thought*******
As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
Offense to God (O)(2):
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|NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.|
|"There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our nearly seven years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.|