We Were Soldiers

Bomb Rating: 

In case you don't read the opening credits, know nothing about the book upon which this film is based, or are just plain stupid, main character Lt. Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) is the author of the book "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young." Unless you are intensely stupid, you should quickly conclude that this means he survived the harrowing Vietnam War battle for the Ia Drang Valley because if he hadn't, he wouldn't be around to write the book, now would he?

It seems idiotic when I put it like that, yet director Randall ("Man in the Iron Mask") Wallace sets us up to think that Moore might not make it. At the very least, he sets up Moore's wife Julie (Madeleine Stowe), who's sitting in her living room at the end of the movie as a cab pulls up in front of her house. See, these cabs pull up in front of her house all movie long. They drop off telegrams informing families of their loved ones' deaths, and Julie has been delivering them rather than allowing the cabbies to do it (and no, the Army doesn't do it because apparently they weren't ready for the casualties or some such lethargically contrived excuse).

Funny, but I do believe they had these devices called "telephones" as far back as October 1965, and I'm even more positive that men ranked Lt. Colonel got to use them. Following a tour of duty, picking up the phone and calling the family was an ideal way of letting them know that you were not, in fact, coming home in a body bag. That way, when the cab pulled up, your loved ones would know that you were alive in it, because they had talked to you on the phone.

I wonder how many of these idiot commanders who walked around the combat zone like Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now" ended up with their brains splattered across the battlefield like lukewarm marmalade. Both Moore and his second in command, Sgt. Major Basil Plumley (Sam Elliott), are just such men. One doubts they were like that in real life. Wallace, apparently, equates bravery with stupidity. While everyone else is ducking for cover under heavy enemy fire, Moore and Plumley strut around like ultra badasses without a care in the world. I can tell you for a fact that the PAVN troops just loved it when the regular troops did that, but they got extra excited when the commanders did it. And if they happened to be showering, even better.

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Rank 101

zulfie's picture

CSM Plumley was-- wait for it!-- the battalion Command Sergeant Major, an enlisted man.  The battalion executive officer was the "second in command."  I saw no particular reference to the XO in the movie.

These little tidbits add up to Credibility... for reviewers as well as directors and writers.  Wallace decided to emphasize the relationship between Moore and his senior enlisted man.  For good storytelling reasons, it seems to me.  But when a reviewer makes such a fundamental mistake-- from cluelessness-- what does that do to the reader's trust?



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