DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Randall Wallace
Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell
Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway

Fathers, Brothers, Husbands & Sons.
Box Office:
Budget $75 million.
Opening weekend $20.212 million on 3143 screens.
Domestic gross $78.12 million.
Rated R for sustained sequences of graphic war violence, and for language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/20/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Randall Wallace
• Deleted Scenes With Director’s Commentary
• “Getting It Right” Documentary

Music soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

We Were Soldiers (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Here’s what I learned from We Were Soldiers: if you serve for the military in a time of war, never ever impregnate your wife. That status will doom you to maiming or worse, and your life will likely take a turn for the worse right after you proudly declare your upcoming fatherhood.

To call Soldiers cliché would be an understatement. The movie manages to deliver a few reasonably powerful moments, but it buries these within a predictable and treacly storyline that frequently collapses under the weight of its stereotypes and sentiment.

After a prologue that shows a battle between the Vietnamese and the French during 1954, Soldiers follows Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), the newly appointed commander of the Seventh Cavalry. The early parts of the flick depict his training of the troops as well as some other prominent characters. Wacky but dependable helicopter pilot Bruce “Snake Shit” Crandall, new father Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), and gruff Sgt. Major Plumley (Sam Elliott) receive the most screen-time, along with some significant others like Julie Moore (Madeleine Stowe) and Barbara Geoghegan (Keri Russell).

Before too long, Moore and company head to Vietnam, where they become among the very first American troops to engage in battle with the North Vietnamese in November 1965. The majority of the film features this long and perilous fight, and we also meet another major character mid-film: military journalist Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper). Most of the movie concentrates on the fight in Vietnam, but the story also detours back to the US on occasion, where we watch the reactions of the wives to the news they receive.

And that’s just one of the many flaws in Soldiers. The sojourns back to America totally ruin the flow of the film. It feels inappropriately jarring to leave the battlefield and check out the ladies back home. Admittedly, I admire the intention, which is to show another side of things, but the execution harms the piece as a whole.

Actually, I admire a lot of the concept behind Soldiers but feel the movie itself falls flat most of the time. Much of the film simply seems very recycled. The fight sequences emulate the graphic nature of Saving Private Ryan, but without the same effect. Too much of Soldiers feels like a collection of killshots, many of which receive slow-motion depiction. The movie seems more concerned with technical virtuosity and ramming home the “war is hell” side of things, but this deadens the senses and ultimately feels gratuitous.

s As I alluded at the start of the review, most of the characters come across like generic stereotypes. I wasn’t joking when I indicated that new fatherhood dooms soldiers in this movie, as more than one suffers the consequences. The film also tries to humanize the Vietnamese - another admirable attempt - but it fails to do so well; those elements just come across as token stabs.

The story comes across as too linear and tidy. It feels like every plot point eventually has a concrete payoff, and they make the tale seem too convenient. While I respect a tightly constructed film, this one appears like they worked it over too heavily and left no room for looseness. As a result, the film has a stale and contrived quality to it.

Unfortunately, much of the story lacks tension as well, at least for those folks who read the opening credits. While I won’t totally spill the beans, if you pay attention at the start, you’ll clearly learn that one of the film’s major characters survives the fight. As I often state, many movies are predictable - it’s not like we think James Bond will die - so this isn’t a fatal flaw. However, since Soldiers actively pushes the suspense in regard to who makes it and who doesn’t, those areas fall flat since we already know the answer, at least in regard to this character.

We Were Soldiers tells an important story, and occasionally, it does so in a compelling and moving way. Unfortunately, its positive moments are undercut by too much emphasis on technical wizardry and too little stress on rich and vivid characterizations. In the end, the film seems like a noble failure.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio A / Bonus B

We Were Soldiers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed good, though it displayed a few issues that kept it from becoming top-notch.

Sharpness usually appeared fine. At times, the movie looked a bit soft and fuzzy. This mainly occurred during wide shots, but a few other scenes also seemed slightly undefined. Most of the film came across as reasonably crisp and detailed, however. I noticed no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement either. As for print flaws, Soldiers looked clean except for a moderate amount of grain. Much of this appeared intentional, as the movie tried to present a documentary-style image, but some of it didn’t make much sense.

I felt the same way about the color scheme of Soldiers. A lot of the film showed desaturated colors that - like many other parts of the flick - seemed to emulate Saving Private Ryan. That appeared fine during the battle sequences, but it persisted in some other segments as well, which struck me as somewhat odd. In general, the colors looked fine, however, despite some scenes with somewhat heavy red lighting. The flatness of the hues didn’t seem overwhelming, and the tones usually came across with appropriate clarity. Black levels appeared nicely deep and dense, while shadow detail was a little less consistent. Most of the low-light sequences looked fine, but a few were somewhat too heavy. In the end, much of We Were Soldiers presented a good image, but it displayed too many issues to merit a grade above a “B”.

On the other hand, I felt no concerns whatsoever about the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of We Were Soldiers. From start to finish, the movie offered reference-quality audio. The soundfield seemed wonderfully active and accurate. Music displayed good stereo imaging, and all five channels provided vivid and distinct material. Of course, the track worked best during the many battle sequences, and those scenes really blasted the action well. Helicopters flew by realistically and smoothly, and both bullets and explosions moved around the spectrum in a compelling and believable manner. The audio panned cleanly across the channels and the whole thing blended together very nicely.

Sound quality also appeared solid. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music came across as bright and vivid and showed fine range and fidelity. Effects dominated the show, as they seemed accurate and rich at all times. The track boasted excellent bass response; low-end material sounded deep and tight and never displayed any boomy qualities. Ultimately, the soundtrack of We Were Soldiers worked extremely well and really brought the action to life.

On this DVD of We Were Soldiers, we find a small collection of supplements. We begin with an audio commentary from director/writer Randall Wallace. He provides a fairly engaging running, screen-specific piece. Wallace nicely mixes remarks about technical aspects of the shoot with information about working with the actors and storytelling elements. Most of his material concentrates on the factual parts of the film, though, as Wallace provides a strong expansion on the true-to-life background. Few empty spaces occur, but Wallace devotes far too much of the track to praise for the participants; I expect some of this, but the director dwells on the topic too heavily. Nonetheless, his commentary works well as a whole and offers some good information about the film.

Next we discover Getting It Right, a 25-minute and 32-second documentary about the film. The program includes clips from the movie, footage from the set and historical documentation, and interviews with significant personalities. In the latter category, we hear from the real-life Lt. General Hal Moore, his wife Julie, Major Bruce Crandall, and reporter Joe Galloway, director Randall Wallace, director of photography Dean Semler, special effects coordinator Paul Lombardi, military technical advisor Jason Powell, production designer Tom Sanders, makeup supervisor Michael Mills, costume designer Michael T. Boyd, property master Jim Zemansky, visual effects supervisor Dave Goldberg, editor William Hoy, composer Nick Glennie-Smith, sound designers Mark Stoeckinger and Lon Bender, and actor Mel Gibson. (Actors Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, and Barry Pepper also comment briefly during some shots from the set.)

”Right” offers a fairly ordinary documentary. It tries to cover all facets of the production and also place things in historical perspective, which is both a blessing and a curse, I liked the idea of the all-encompassing program, but there’s way too much material to go over in such a short show. This means too many topics fly by too quickly. I’d love to have an hour or so with just Moore and the other real-life participants, but we only get a couple of minutes from them. The rest of the program zips through other elements with equal rapidity. “Right” includes some good moments - especially Keri Russell’s audition and real-life dsla’s reaction to Russell on the set - but it seems too brief and superficial to provide much useful information.

Lastly, the DVD includes a collection of 10 deleted scenes. Presented non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, the clips run between 50 seconds and three minutes, 14 seconds for a total of 21 minutes and 17 seconds of footage.

One can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from director Randall Wallace, who offers some interesting remarks about the segments. He gives us some background and usually - but not always - tells us why the material failed to make the film. As with his commentary for the main film, Wallace remains chatty and informative, so these remarks merit a listen.

On the negative side, the deleted scenes fail to include a “Play All” option that would make it easier to check out the clips. However, as usual, Paramount provide both English and French subtitles for the documentary and the deleted scenes, which remains a nice touch.

Though I admire the intentions behind We Were Soldiers, I didn’t care for the film itself. The movie wants to depict the reality of a historically significant battle in Vietnam, but the result feels pat, trite and predictable. The DVD offers generally positive picture quality along with excellent audio and a fairly solid collection of extras. If you liked We Were Soldiers, you should eagerly greet this DVD, but others with an interest in the topic may want to consider a rental first.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.305 Stars Number of Votes: 118
9 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.