Movie Review: Movie Response: We Were Soldiers

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¶ … Soldiers

Was the Movie Accurate? What Inaccuracies can be Identified?

There is a good deal of the literature that praises this movie for it's authenticity, which is impressive because many war movies -- particularly those about the Vietnam conflict -- tend to be made for entertainment purposes -- not exact portrayal of historic reality -- by Hollywood. Movies made in Hollywood are not obliged to be totally accurate; what movie directors and producers want is a successful film at the box office, not necessarily a film that captures the honest reality of a war scene. However, if directors can reach a reasonably accurate portrayal of the actual events that are being depicted, they can boast that they went the extra mile to approach the truth of what happened.

This film follows the book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, fairly closely. The book should be accurate given that it was co-authored by men that were present at the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam -- Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Retired) and war journalist Joseph L. Galloway. But there are gaps in the film vis-a-vis the truthfulness of accuracy of that bloody battle. This paper points to the literature / critiques in response to the film.

Laura Freschi writing in Military.com explains that the book is "…packed full of small authentic details that neither advance the plot nor add to character development," but were put into the narrative because they reflected the "random and seemingly meaningless mess" that life can become in a war zone (Freschi, 2003, p. 2). Of course the director Randall Wallace wanted to "streamline and simplify" those small but authentic details so he did, which gave the film a more "weighty, dramatic significance," Freschi explains (p. 2). One example of director Wallace's streamlining came when he asked actor Sam Elliott (playing hard-core Sergeant Major Plumley) to carry two .45 caliber pistols into battle.

But Elliott balked because since he had become friends with the real Plumley, Plumley told Elliott he never carried more than one pistol. Hence, the film stayed true to that detail. Moreover, when General Moore and journalist Calloway saw the film, they felt that it was accurate "…especially in portraying the noise and confusion" in battlefield scenes (Freschi, p. 2).

Another realistic aspect to the film is the fact that during the early portion of the Vietnam conflict so many American men were killed that cab drivers in the U.S. were delivering telegrams to wives and families. That seems unlikely, given that in other movies a soldier is usually given the thankless job of delivering the telegram to the widow; but in this case it was a true account in the film.

The film certainly departs from the book in substantial ways; in fact viewing the film one sees a heroic charge at the end of this bloody battle, as Lt. Col Moore leads the troops on a bold attack and defeats the North Vietnamese. In the book, which readers have to believe is very close to what actually happened (because its authors were there), there was no daring charge and the North Vietnamese were not destroyed. Moreover, in the movie Captain Ramon Nadal and his platoon rescued Lt. Henry Herrick's platoon -- a risky move but it made… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Movie Response: We Were Soldiers.  (2012, May 2).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/movie-response-soldiers/44537

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"Movie Response: We Were Soldiers."  Essaytown.com.  May 2, 2012.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/movie-response-soldiers/44537.