We Were Soldiers
My hat is off to Randall Wallace, who produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for the new movie, We Were Soldiers. Years in the making, this movie goes above and beyond the usual socialistically slanted war productions of Hollywood to find a story that beats the drum for the veterans of that awful war. Based on the book written by the men who lived the story, Lt. General, (then a Lt. Col.) Hal Moore and war reporter, Joe Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young. The movie was, in every way, a gem in the usual trash that comes out of Hollywood these days. I can only imagine the battles that took place to bring this movie to the silver screen.
In case my readers have failed to notice, I have a soft spot in my heart for the uniformed soldier that puts his life in jeopardy to represent this country in battle. The ones that do it repeatedly without whining and under the very worst of conditions deserve nothing less that our total admiration and everlasting gratitude. Such men do not grow on trees in today’s society. There are many, still, but they are becoming a rare breed indeed. Movies such as We Were Soldiers can do much to influence a return to the kind of honor, courage, and God given spirit that it takes to insure that America will never be defeated for lack of these things.
Since I rarely go to theatres to watch movies any more, I only recently saw “Soldiers” when it was released on video and DVD. I had been looking forward to it, but had not read any reviews until after I saw it. I eagerly placed the DVD in the machine and prepared to watch the movie just last week. After the initial copyright warning screen, I was surprised by a second screen of text – surprised, then shocked, and later infuriated! Here is an exact copy of the text on that screen:
“The views expressed in the interviews and/or commentary are solely those of the individuals providing them and do not represent the opinions of Paramount Picture Corporation, its parent, or its affiliates.”
After I watched the movie, I decided to re-run it with the Director’s Commentary option turned on. I had to know just what it might be that Paramount Studios did not think represented their views. I will repeat my opening comment – my hat is off to Randall Wallace! His attention to detail is astounding, and his commitment to telling the story is beyond reproach. I found nothing in his opinions or commentary that would indicate a threat to anyone except those who would dishonor the memory of American soldiers. He even spends an adequate amount of time singing the praises of the enemy in his comments and gives ample attention to the human side of the horrors of war for both sides! Paramount, where is your beef?
The combined talent of Mel Gibson and Randall Wallace is as incomparable in this film as it was in Braveheart. Gibson directed that film, but it was still scripted by Wallace and therein lies the heart of a good story. Although theatrics can be superb in a less than otherwise admirable production, this story leaned heavily on the believability of the story itself. After reading a wide assortment of reviews on Soldiers, I am appalled at the number of shallow, ignorant reviewers who could not even glean the essence of this story from this great movie. These people had the audacity to accuse Wallace of “melodramatics” for portraying the documented truth of these soldiers’ dying words. How dare they insinuate that a young man dying on the battlefield would not utter a simple sentiment suggesting such a sincere devotion to his wife or his country! Wallace got it right – he wrote their words in his script!
Without a doubt one of the high points in the movie was Mel Gibson’s stirring portrayal of Hal Moore’s speech to his men before the unit left for Vietnam. He told them they would be in great danger and that they would not all survive, but he made them a solemn promise to be the first on and the last off the battlefield, and that “dead or alive, they would all come home together.” This was the speech of a great leader, and Gibson did it justice. In the words of Randall Wallace, “I think if you listen to that speech and it doesn’t move you, you ought to find some place else to live.” Three cheers and big Amen to that!
All too often Hollywood’s handling of the Vietnam War has left out a very real part of the human element in that great tragedy – the story of those in waiting and left behind. They fought their own terrible battle in their own way, and this movie pays particular attention to this one group of wives of the young men who went off to do their country’s bidding. They, too, were real people called upon to handle an impossible situation and support their men before, during and after their return, if they were lucky enough to get them back at all. Those of us who saw that side of the battle from first hand experience should thank Wallace for his attention to detail and his sensitivity to what we, and those women in the story went through. It was not a time when wives only had to dread the arrival of the official car with uniformed officers and a compassionate chaplain to break the news of their husbands’ demise on the battlefield. They had to fear an impersonal telegram delivered by and even more impersonal cab driver that would shred their world and leave them defenseless in a sea of anguish. God bless Wallace’s script and direction as well as the talented actresses that handled that part of the story. I saw no flaws in it.
I have a sense that the reason for the negative reviews and Paramount’s disclaimer had more to do with the religious element of the story, the characters, and the craftsmen involved in this movie than anything else. To remind Americans these days that God has been present on each and every battlefield that Americans have found themselves on is simply not acceptable in today’s socialist philosophy. This movie draws dramatic attention to that fact though its characters, the real men who lived the story and the artists who brought it to the public through this production. God was on that battlefield as well as the production sets, and the socialists simply cannot abide that! In a chapel service held the night before the first shooting for this movie, the real surviving soldiers were invited to tell their stories. According to Randall Wallace, these soldiers “ripped us all raw” as they told their stories.
Hal Moore and Mel Gibson share their faith, (Catholicism) and their devotion to family. As pointed out by Wallace, each of them is also known as a “man’s man.” This also would cause a large portion of today’s society some discomfort in the current environment of feminization and super sensitivity to political correctness. Anyone who feels disconnected to these characters has lost touch with an important part of their own humanity. That is all I can say about that.
Most of the reviews were in agreement about the portrayal by Sam Elliott in the role of Sgt. Major Plumley – outstanding! I wholeheartedly agree. A great man portrayed by a great artist is a joy to see. I thought this character and this performance was a wonderful support to an already wonderful story, however, and not the only saving grace as some seemed to think.
There are many great characters and portrayals in We Were Soldiers that I have not mentioned here. That is not to slight any of them or the real people they represent. There are so many stories of such men and their families that could be told as well, but instead, as Hal Moore is reported to have said it in his book, “Hollywood has gotten the story of the Vietnam Veteran wrong every damned time.” That is what he thought up until the making of this movie. Now, his comments hold such truth when he talks about this movie:
“Hate war, but love the American Warrior. They finally got it right; they finally got it right!”
Thank you, sir, for your commitment to your heritage of faith, your country, and your uncommon valor!
Love the American Warrior for enduring the hated wars that have left us with the duty to preserve what they have time and again paid the ultimate price to preserve – our home.