Prayer Focus
Movie Review

We Were Soldiers

MPAA Rating: R for sustained sequences of graphic war violence, and for language

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rothgeb

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
War Drama / Action
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
Mel Gibson in “We Were Soldiers”

Starring: Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear, Madeleine Stowe, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein, Keri Russell, Barry Pepper, Duong Don, Ryan Hurst, Robert Bagnell, Marc Blucas, Josh Daugherty, Jsu Garcia, Jon Hamm, Clark Gregg, Desmond Harrington, Blake Heron, Erik MacArthur, Dylan Walsh, Mark McCracken, Edwin Morrow, Brian Tee, Sloane Momsen, Bellamy Young, Simbi Kali Williams, Jim Grimshaw, Forry Smith, Steven Nelson, Vincent Angell, Michael Tomlinson, Keith Szarabajka, Tim Abell, Patrick St. Esprit, Michael John White, Daniel Roebuck, Maia Lien, Danny Beene, Taylor Momsen, Josh McLaurin, Devon Werkheiser, Luke Benward, Billinjer C. Tran, Vien Hong, Joseph Tran, Joseph Hieu, Lam Nguyen, Zoë Bui, Andrew Wallace, Nicholas Hosking, Michael Giordani, Shep Koster, Kate Lombardi, Ingrid Semler, Jason Powell, Doug C. Cook, Sean Thomas Bunch, F. Lee Reynolds, Stephen Zapotoczny, Frank Kostenko Jr. | Directed by: Randall Wallace | Produced by: Icon Entertainment International, Motion Picture Production GmbH & Co. Erste KG, Wheelhouse Entertainment, Eveleen Bandy, Bruce Davey, William Hoy, Jim Lemley, Stephen McEveety, Arne L. Schmidt, Randall Wallace, Danielle Lemmon, Stephen Zapotoczny | Written by: Randall Wallace | Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Like “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Black Hawk Down”, “We Were Soldiers” left me with an awe and respect for all those men and women who have fought and died to give us all the freedoms we enjoy. Although the movie is inundated with an assortment of profanity and has a good 45 minutes of extremely violent footage, the message holds true throughout the picture.

The story is the true account of Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) who led the first bloody assault into Vietnam with 400 of his men. The plot starts with introducing us to Moore as a loving father and dedicated leader in the 7th Cavalry Division. He is shown not only as a caring father but also as a devoted Catholic who is bold about his faith in and devotion to God and this into his command. I was pleasantly surprised to see him shown in such a spiritually redeeming light.

The second half of “We Were Soldiers” is both harsh and realistic as the troops engage in battle. While the battle footage is certainly impressive. so too is the humanity that it offered during it. We see the desperation in Moore and his second in command (Sam Elliot). The story also takes us back to American soil where the soldier’s wives receive the unbearable news of their fallen husbands.

Keri Russell, Simbi Khali and Madeleine Stowe in “We Were Soldiers” There is a great sadness, then anguish, then fear and suspense as the direction progresses smoothly between scenes. “We Were Soldiers” is a moving portrayal of a war that is still full of controversy over how it was handled.

Though the movie is very deserving of its “R” rating, it paints a very moral picture. It makes clear that war, though horrible, is sometimes necessary and is fought by courageous and dedicated people. It shows clearly that God is with us always and guides us to great courage and fortitude. I highly recommend “We Were Soldiers” within the guidelines of its “R” rating.

Viewer Comments
For those like myself who left home and family to fight this war, Col. Moore’s leaving his family was the hardest part to watch. I had a mom and dad and girlfriend, hard enough… but children? I hope all who watch this realize the courage and strength of character played out thousands of times during those dark years. Faith was a huge part of my year in Vietnam. I appreciate this vital part of the experience addressed for once.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Lynn Erwin, age 53
Positive—To quote Joe Galloway in the current VFW magazine, “this time Hollywood finally got it right.” Although some of the story line is compressed into a few characters, what you see, with just a couple exceptions, is exactly what happened. Even the “home front” is along the lines of the truth. From a Christian standpoint, there is some “checkered” language and of course quite a bit of extreme violence however, it is nothing compared to the real thing. I know—I was there as the pilot of the command helicopter of LTC Bob Tully, 2nd Bn, 5th Cav. I landed in LZ XRay 4 times on days 2, 3, and 4. I certainly recommend this movie. It honors 305 good American men whose names are engraved on the third panel to the right of the apex of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial who died in the Ia Drang during October-November 1965. See this movie for that reason.
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Richard Snyder, Captain US Army Retired, age 59
Positive—I found nothing in the “movie” offensive, but be forewarned that this movie has brutal scenes of violence. What I find offensive is that our politicians got us into the Vietnam War in the first place. Let’s face it, war is hell. I believe this to be a very accurate portrayal of battle, but what was more important in my mind is that the soldiers, on BOTH sides, were “real” people, with families, with religion, with hopes, with dreams. It seemed that both sides were praying, both sides felt they were right, but in retrospect, we know that neither side was right in the sight of God. As a Vietnam era vet, after watching this movie, I am even more saddened and angered by what our politicians got us into than I was while it was happening. It was an ugly, unwinnable war with little or no purpose, and the cost was immeasurable. I think this film is a MUST watch. I’m a youth minister, and am considering taking our youth group to see the movie and afterwards have general discuss ion about war…
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Carl Fuglein, age 54
Positive—Honor, courage, and commitment—that’s what I thought this movie was about. As a veteran, I appreciated the simple telling of this story minus the usually nauseating political commentary. To me, the movie accurately portrayed what it means, and what it is like to serve one’s country in time of war from all sides: friend, family and foe. The movie showed us that honor in leadership is a valued asset. As time stands still in the face of uncertainty, the movie showed us the courage of left behind families and loved ones. Finally, I appreciated the director’s commitment to the honest (unstereotypical) portrayals of soldiers, both US and NVA.
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—D. Rennie, age 34
Positive—It seems to me, in reading both the review and the reader’s comments, that the people talking this film have missed something very important—Hal Moore and Joe Galloway are real men who were in the real battle at the Ia Drang Valley. Of course, the film “Hollywood’s” the story a bit, but mainly, it’s an account of what actually happened. Many may ask, “So what?” there are plenty of history books, why do we care if this film is realistic. The point to me, if you read the author’s comments, is that they were purposely trying to avoid political commentary. Every film about Vietnam, from The Green Berets to Apocalypse Now, has had an overt political axe to grind. Lost in all the political rhetoric of these past films have been the men who actually fought and died. This book and film are a tribute to their courage and dedication to duty. They went and did a terrible job, no matter what anyone thought about it. They were soldiers and they acted like it. One can argue all day long about whether we had any business in Vietnam. But I was pleased and moved to see a film honoring the too often forgotten or politicized soldiers. They were treated shamefully by the public, yet many, like Gen. Schwartzkoff (sp?) stayed in the army and continued with their job anyway. Those veterans deserve this honor.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Thomas Quinlen, age 27
Positive—“We Were Soldiers” is very intense and gripping; very well acted and very well told. Though some scenes are hard to watch, I thought this movie was worth both the time and money without doubt. Recommended as a very engaging portrayal of the horrors of war and the men and women involved. “We Were Soldiers” takes you to the center of Vietnam, puts faces on the names of those who suffered, and leaves you with a wellfounded distaste for the so-called glories of battle and ease for which politicians sometimes initiate them.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4½]
—Todd Adams, age 34
Positive—…[Moore] is a Catholic and his wife (Madeline Stowe) is a Methodist. Scenes in America show the training of the soldiers. Meanwhile you get to see the families and their interactions. Wives group meetings in the Moore’s home, The Colonel praying with his kids, a babies birth, a Lt. praying in the chapel with the Colonel, etc etc. Jump to Vietnam. The battle takes place after a minor base gets invaded in which there were no casualties. Typical of many of the Vietnam conflicts (my opinion), the Commanding Staff sends Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and the infamous 7th Calvary (General Custer’s) in to an unknown area to take revenge on the perpetrators. Intelligence doesn’t know how small or big the attacking force was. The rest of the movie focuses on this battle with cut scenes to America and the soldiers families there.

This movie is about a battle between two like-minded men and the forces they command. It is one of the more intense movies I have seen. It has like many secular movies today a lot of graphic depiction of blood and some gore, but not as graphic as “Saving Private Ryan.” There are not any sex scenes and very little, if any, foul language. A Final Word—This is the only movie I remember ever going to that the audience didn’t even begin to move at the end. My wife and I sat through the ending credits then as the lights came up I looked back behind me because it was so quiet and I was stunned to see that NO-ONE had even moved. Maybe they didn’t breathe because it was that quiet. The audience was a well represented crowd from mid teens to senior citizens. If it wasn’t for the graphic blood and one set of gore scenes I would take my older kids to see the way it must have been for our unsung Vietnam Veterans.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—K.C. Hartman, age 42
Positive—A violent and very graphic film. I feel that for Viet Nam veterans this movie will stir up possibly many painful memories. For the loved ones of those who paid the supreme sacrifice it may also reopen old wounds. Mel Gibson gives a great performance as Lt.Col Moore. Showing the qualities of a fine commanding officer, a devoted father of five happy children, a loving husband and a man of commited faith at home, and on the battlefield. This movie provides a great tribute to the veterans of the 7th Cavalry.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Dave T.Chew, age 65
Neutral—This movie more than earned its R rating from the MPAA with EXTREME violence. I have seen movies like Gladiator and Braveheart and the blood and gore they portray is nothing compared to this. I had to look away through several sequences. Children and very sensitive people should NOT see this film. I rather wish I hadn’t seen certain parts of it. That said, if you can tolerate the violence, it’s a cut above most recent movies as far as believability, the cast was great, and I found it very gripping.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Rachael, age 20
Positive—I’ve watched many War Movies, good and bad… There are War movies where Heroes don’t die, and death is cheap. Then, there are movies like Saving Private Ryan and We were Soldiers. In We were Soldiers, those who die in the battle are not merely cannon Fodders, they are fathers, brothers, Sons, and Husbands… Some of the more touching scenes involve Wives. Furthermore, the film also reminds us that, Enemy is also Human. They may be fighting on the other side, but they, too are Sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands. It was a great movies, but the carnage and the bloody battles might be too much for some. In one scene, a soldier is napalmed, and is badly burned. Barry Pepper attempted to get the soldier to an evac Helicopter, by dragging him, and ends up ripping off burned skin. Somehow, as I watched this gruesome scene, tears streamed down my cheek. War is Hell, and I pray, even as the current War against Terror goes on, that we could find ways to avoid war. Somehow, because real war is 100 times more gruesome that what you see in the movie theater.
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Young, age 25

This is a very graphic, realistic movie about the 1st few battles of the Vietnam War and the life of Hal Moore and the troops under him. A powerful, emotional story, my wife used up a lot of Kleenex, as it’s definitely a sad story about the realities of war. This movie is even more graphic than Saving Private Ryan, which says a lot, so it’s not for younger viewers (under 17). There are several instances of prayer being used but some Christians will find one of Moore’s prayers objectionable. No nudity and a lot less language than what would’ve actually been said in that situation I’m sure! Morally, well let’s just say there is nothing moral about war! After the movie, my wife held me a little tighter and we both thanked God we never had to live thru war personally and pray our son never has to either!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 5]
—Bob Sprenger, age 49

Positive—Neither a Rambo nor an Oliver Stone take on the Vietnam War, but rather an evenhanded approach. Gibson is believable playing a Catholic family-oriented father of many children (not difficult since that’s what he is in real life). The supporting cast including Madeleine Stowe, Sam Elliott and even Greg Kinnear are all good in their roles. With the benefit of hindsight, the writers put a bit of prophecy into some of the characters’ remarks, but that’s not the first time that’s been done. The violence is “Private Ryan” grade at times. The crude language is minimal for a war film. One of the better films on a subject that will never be exhausted.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
Brett Willis, age 51
Positive—I would recommend seeing this movie for those who are older and who are ready to handle people fighting and dying. It has some offensive language used initially at the beginning, but it is far less than I have come to expect from R-rated movies. For someone like myself who can only imagine what this battle in Vietnam might have been like, as I watched I felt like I was getting a picture of what it would be like to be in a situation looks like there is not much hope of getting out and yet knowing you must continue to fight (that must often the case in real war.) There are moments of humorous comments or exchanges as seems to be common to the Mel Gibson movies I have seen. I did not think that the blood and gore that is in this movie was taken to far. Since there is blood, fighting, and killing this is not a movie for children. All in all I would say this is a quite decent for a war film. No sex, affairs etc., offensive language almost exclusively at the very beginning…
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Nathan, age 22
Positive—I loved this movie. I do believe that it is for adults because of all the action and war violence, however I do not deem any of it unnecessary. There is language in it, however some of it comes in the heat of the moment when the characters really aren’t thinking about what they are saying. There is a strong religious theme in it, and it’s not making fun of religions. This movie is a heart felt emotional 5 hankie movie (for the females anyway). If you’ve ever been to the memorial in DC, this movie will give you a whole new respect for it. I walked out of the movie with my friend and we just sat in the car and were awe struck. It is a great movie, and really makes you love the people who fight for our country. I highly recommend it if anyone wants to see an action/romance/patriotic movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Stephanie Hines, age 20
Neutral—I think this movie could have provided so much more than it did. The history of the conflict, the reasons we sent troops to Vietnam, the lives of the soldiers that returned… Instead, I felt I watched 2 ½ hours of a pure blood bath. The few instances where the strategies of both sides were given was great and interesting. I felt that God was often portrayed in a positive light, lots of prayer and references to God (primarily from a Catholic perspective) were shown. Overall, I could have passed on the movie and just read the book.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—E Blount, age 39
Comments from young people
Positive—Excellent movie, I loved it completely. There wasn’t barely any swearing in it (unlike Black Hawk Down, which was still a great movie—don’t get me wrong). The reason I went to see this movie because Mel Gibson is my favourite actor and this just looked like one that would stand up to Braveheart. It didn’t, but it was still a great movie. The violence was very bloody, but not as bad as you may think. I loved this movie, I would recommend it to anyone that likes Mel Gibson’s movies, or war pictures at that go see it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Joseph Berry, age 15
Positive—I extremely loved this movie! Really, after the first 30 seconds when the f-word is said three times in French, its not too bad. I thought that this was as clean of a “R” movie you could get. Yah it was bloody but I was expecting worse. Col. Moore and Lt. Geoghan leave you with a pretty good message, “That God has a plan for me and you.” Col. Moore was shown praying many times throughout the movie. In the heat of battle I really didn’t hear much swearing. The movie was graphic in some parts (squirting blood, charred and burned skin) but I was expecting worse. If you are a mature teen you should be able to handle it. Its a very well made movie, good acting, good effects, props, the music a little funny, but really loved this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Ray Di Ciaccio, age 15