year: 2002
cast: Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, Madaline Stowe
rating: ***

This is a good war film, very moving and intense, but I guess I've been ruined by body count war films in which you get to know each character and then as the movie progresses you watch them either die or survive accordingly. In this aspect, a film like this one, purposely made to be more realistic, gets a bit tiresome since I can't "keep score". I felt I was within the bloody battle, and this is good filmmaking to put someone THERE, but I was there way too long, and after a while I got shell-shocked, I never knew which character was dying or where I'd seen them before. This film covers the recuruiting and training of the Marine Air Calvery in the beginning of the Vietnam war and then that group of soldiers marching onto war. We go through training with the soldiers, and again, while we get to know Mel Gibson's character and his wife, with an exception of one young guy who's wife has a baby (we know this guy's gonna die), the other characters don't stand out... enough so that we care when they're torn to bits in the second half war (very long) segment. I realize, this shouldn't matter. War films should be more realistic and less slasher/body count, but this is what I grew up on and I guess I just like it better knowing EXACTLY who GETS IT. In other words, I want to not only care about the battle and the strategy, but the characters. Although it was nice to see a Vietnam War movie without a political agenda: showing war is hell simply by showing war as it happens, not getting into the reasons it "shouldn't have happened in the first place", which is what we usually get served on the Hollywood platter.

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