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The Vietnam War is a very sensitive topic in American history. All reviewers rightfully appreciated the film's dedication and honor to the soldiers who fought in the Ia Drang Valley, including the Vietnamese enemies. The film, however, fails to address the justification or purpose for the battle. But central to the movie are the battle scenes. Some critics thought these bloody and intense segments were masterfully staged, while others believed them to be overwhelming, taking up the entire movie. In the end it would be universally agreed upon that the dynamic trio of writer Moore, director Wallace, and actor Gibson leads to an inspiring redefinition of heroism in a chaotic time of our country’s history.

Ansen, David. "Braveheart of Darkness." Newsweek 11 March 2002: 63.
We Were Soldiers is a tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in the war, but it's problematic that the film never addresses the reason we are fighting. The movie is missing triumph and ends the same way the war did. But the war and action scenes are masterfully staged.
Atkinson, Michael. "Patriot Shame." Village Voice 5 March 2002.
Atkinson critiques We Were Soldiers for its shameful attempt at comparing the film to the battle of Little Big Horn. He believes the film is missing meaning. Experiencing a heartbreaking tragedy through "the purpose only millionaire politicians can dream of" leads to an empty story. The idea of responsibility, personal and national, is a prominent theme, but the film does not provide an answer for meaningless deaths.
Cunneen, Joseph. "Looking back." National Catholic Reporter 22 March 2002: 14.
Cunneen has an issue with the unaddressed justification for U.S. presence in Vietnam, but, to its credit, he believes We Were Soldiers does not demoralize the enemy in any way, while it also gives good devotion to religion.
Denby, David. "Good Guys." New Yorker 11 March 2002: 92.
We Were Soldiers is primarily based on such virtues as "the white males who were simply brave--the kind of Americans who loved their God, revered their wives, and honored the Asian enemy." He believes the film is "stirring" but not quite "interesting" or "original."
Ebert, Roger. "We Were Soldiers." Chicago Sun-Times 1 March 2002.
Ebert points out such good things as the combination of Gibson and Elliott's characters and what they bring to the table. All the characters in the movie aren't hard to tell apart either, which is a common problem in war movies. The dedication to the Northern Vietnamese soldiers is also remarkable.
LaSalle, Mick. "They were heroes / 'We Were Soldiers' shows the full horror of Vietnam and the full humanity of those who fought it." San Francisco Chronicle 1 March 2002.
We Were Soldiers is one of the greatest war movies of the past twenty years. It never lets the viewer forget about the lives each soldier lives outside of his service. The opening scene sets up the viewer well. The profound moments in the film are common. The film involves wave after wave of battle scenes, while never losing its connection with the wives back home.
Meroney, John. "Vietnam, with less angst and alienation." American Enterprise 13.2 (2002): 50.
We Were Soldiers shows in vivid detail how the enemy drew Americans into battle as a kind of training and dress rehearsal for engagements. The fighting scenes are a dominant force throughout the entire film. "It's not a documentary on the history channel."
Petrakis, John. "Soldiers at Work." Christian Century 13-20 March: 47.
One of the best things about the film is the way it "cuts to the point of view of the Vietnamese soldiers." There are very weak parts and strong parts, however, creating a "wildly uneven" film. In the end, though, it redefines the meaning of heroism during a very chaotic period.
Russell, Jamie. "We Were Soldiers." Sight and Sound 12.4 (2002): 63-64.
Wallace's decision to include Gibson is a major improvement for Vietnam films. The purpose behind fighting in the Vietnam War is also in question in the film because of its depiction of America as a global "policeman." But essentially the film reminds the viewer constantly of bravery against overwhelming odds. We Were Soldiers did not do a good job at examining the political realities of the War.
Scott, A. O. "Early Vietnam, Mission Murky." New York Times 1 March 2002.
Scott stresses the intense battle scenes, "But if We Were Soldiers treats war as a nightmare, it also insists on the honor and rectitude of the men who fight it, and on portraying their loyalty to one another in an almost romantic light." Since the battlefield is the place where the movie's heart is, there is a strong human connection when the scenes from home are added in. We Were Soldiers is the story of the men who fought at Ia Drang but also a tribute to them and their adversaries.

See Also

Hasenauer, Heike. "We Were Soldiers." Soldiers 57.3 (Mar 2002): 26-32.

Howe, Desson. "‘Soldiers': A fresh look at an old war." Washington Post 1 March 2002: T45.

Hunter, Stephen. "‘We were soldiers': Aiming high but hitting the gut." Washington Post 1 March 2002: C1.

Hunter, Stephen. "The director, on a mission; ‘We were soldiers' is personal; Randall Wallace fought to keep it so." Washington Post 3 March 2002: G1.

McManus, John F. "Steadfast fighter for freedom." New American 6 May 2002: 37-39.

Pierce, Charles P. "(Mel) Gibson." Esquire February 2002: 62-69.

Schaller, Michael. "We Were Soldiers." Journal of American History. 89.3 (2002): 1173-74.

Sharrett, Christopher. "Hollywood and the New Militarism." USA Today May 2002: 37.

Turner, Fred. "Benevolent Soldier, Rotten War." Chronicle of Higher Education 22 March 2002: B16.