We Were Soldiers – the Movie

A 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson as a colonel in the US Army, leading a battalion in 1965 in the Vietnam War. Get ready for graphic violence and horrible war scenes. This is another war movie that leaves you speechless about the futility of war. Men on both sides get mowed down. They lose their lives on the battlefield. Then they are told they are doing this for their country. What did 58,000 American soldiers lose their lives for in Vietnam? It’s easy for us to say today that the Vietnam War was a useless war. Tell that to the soldier on the battlefield.

What are we telling soldiers on the battlefield in Iraq today? And what will we say about the Iraq War 43 years hence in, dare I write it down, 2052? I will likely not be here in 2052, but my children will. What will they say then?

This is a movie about leadership. The commander of the operation is the first soldier to step onto the battle ground, and the last one to leave. This is in direct contrast to the Vietnamese colonel, who led the entire Vietnamese effort from inside an underground bunker, safe and protected, while the sent his young soldiers into ridiculous suicide missions. After it was all over, he walked the battlefield, examined the mounds of his dead comrades, neatly stacked by the Americans, and mused about the tragedy of war.

It seems every war movie has the same formula. Get to know the players,  see them crumble under pressure, or soar above everyone else and hopefully survive, coming home a reluctant hero, forever damaged. When the lights come on, we blink, we rub our eyes, we marvel how it can be possible to have stuff like this happen, and then we go about our business again in gross-national-product-land.

Rating: ***

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