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WE WERE SOLDIERS

SYNOPSIS:
Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) leads his men into the first major battle of the Vietnam War in November 1965, and finds himself up against a smartly led North Vietnamese army that outnumbers his 400 men by some 5 to 1. Based on a book that recounts the true story of the battle of Ia Drang.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Modern war movies based on actual incidents Ė from Schindlerís List and Saving Private Ryan to The Thin Red Line and Enemy at the Gates or Black Hawk Down Ė have one obvious element in common: the art of war has been revealed by the art of cinema so viscerally, so powerfully that they become traumatic events to sit through even in the safety and comfort of a plush red seat with drink holder. The question beyond that, though, is what purpose do these films serve? What are the filmmakers showing us and are these films of value on some deeper level? My own response is that they are indeed valuable, even if ultimately and sadly, seemingly ineffectual in making a difference. But that doesnít mean we should stop trying, and the creative community of filmmakers (and writers, photographers, painters, musicians, etc) are better placed than anyone else to retrieve, retain and retell these stories. It matters that we repeatedly reaffirm the important values of humanity that escapes from the cracks of doom in battle. While the savage fighting seems the antithesis of civilisation, the nobility of intent within that framework is crucial to societyís ongoing belief and trust in the virtues elevated by these stories. Itís how well these films succeed at that task that marks them for greatness. I think We Were Soldiers approaches greatness by virtue of its comprehensive emotional range. But that doesnít spring from mere cinematic ambition: the raw material comes from fact, and its recorded details by someone actually there, as part of it. In a searingly pain-driven piece of writing and directing, Randall Wallace etches a picture that resonates for us all: a picture of complexities about young men sent off to fight and be killed, of the humanity of the enemy, of families at home, of anguish beyond endurance and of courage that cannot be measured. Itís a moving and deeply affecting film, served with valour by Mel Gibson in a return to his best performance level, and with the added grunt of maturity.†

Review by Louise Keller:
The Vietnam War evokes different memories for everyone. For me as a teenager in 1969, I spent a month as a singer, entertaining Australian and American troops all over Vietnam. I was part of a group organised by the Australian Government, and my experiences performing for wildly enthusiastic audiences in war-torn danger zones was both memorable and intensely humbling. So I feel connected in some way to the Vietnam War, and am fascinated to learn more about events from that time. The event relived in the hard-hitting, powerful war drama, We Were Soldiers took place four years earlier, and adeptly puts a real face on war, sharing the horrors and the scars, both in the battlefield and at home. Itís a powerhouse of a film. The experience is intense and on the big screen, the harshness and futility of war has never seemed more apparent. Like Black Hawk Down, we are totally immersed in the claustrophobia of war. Itís an authoritative script with potent direction from Braveheart writer Randall Wallace and although most of the film takes place on the battlefield, we get to know the soldiers as individuals. We meet their families, watch them train and see them in action. We feel the chaos, the madness, the terror. Graphic scenes of violence are uncompromising and overtly disturbing. There is no relief. It is relentless. We see-saw between hell in battle and hell in waiting, as wives live in dread of receiving a telegram, delivered by the impersonal Yellow Cab. Mel Gibson squarely centres the film, offering an outstanding and authoritative performance as Moore, a leader with a vision. He is the soldier who is first to step onto the field and the last to leave. He is also a husband and father, and it seems the most natural thing in the world for him to say prayers with his children. Itís a great performance from Gibson: fully rounded and true. Sam Elliott stands out as Sargeant Major Plumley, the tough army man who calls a spade a spade, but itís a strong cast all round, and everyone makes his mark. Based on a best-selling book written by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and photojournalist Joseph L. Galloway, this real-life event sees many killed and itís a terrifying realisation for the men to be without visibility and to only be able to sense the presence of their enemy by their sense of smell. Aided by a sublime ethereal music score, We Were Soldiers is an extremely moving film that allows us to connect with the characters and by so doing, we feel an intrinsic link to our history.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MEL GIBSON Press Conference

TRAILER

WE WERE SOLDIERS (MA)
(US)

CAST: Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell, Barry Pepper

PRODUCER: Randall Wallace, Bruce Davey, Stephen McEveety

DIRECTOR: Randall Wallace

SCRIPT: Randall Wallace

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler

EDITOR: William Hoy

MUSIC: Nick Glennie-Smith

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Thomas E. Sanders

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2002







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