There have been many movies about Vietnam. The best-known prior to 2002
was Platoon, by Oliver Stone. Stone got on the map with that film,
although it was highly controversial, like some of his other products
(JFK, Natural Born Killers). People either loved the film or hated it.
Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now were the films that
Hollywood had seen fit to use to portray Vietnam. In fact, the
stereotype of the Vietnam veteran and the soldiers who served there were
heavily established. Perhaps the first film of note to challenge that
was 1991ís Flight of the Intruder, but it didnít do well at the box
office and it was almost relegated to a footnote.
It would take Mel Gibson to create the film that would break the
stereotype Hollywood created. Lieutenant General Hal Mooreís We Were
Soldiers OnceÖ and Young, written with Joe Galloway, had been written in
part because of movies like Platoon. In a sense, it was a natural choice
to turn into the anti-Platoon.
Gibson portrayed Hal Moore, with Barry Pepper playing Joe Galloway. Sam
Elliot (who turned in an outstanding performance as John Buford in
Gettysburg) portrayed Sergeant Major Basil Plumley, and Greg Kinnear
played Major Bruce Crandall.
Where Platoon seemed to opt for controversy, We Were Soldiers instead
went for accuracy and respect for both sides in the battle. The home
front was well-covered as well, telling the part of the story that was
never told in earlier movies about Vietnam, with outstanding
performances from Madeline Stowe (Julie Moore) and Keri Russell (Barbara
We Were Soldiers is the Vietnam film that was long overdue. It succeeded
in telling the story the right way, and it did well at the box office.
An outstanding effort by all involved.