Friday, July 4, 2014

Mel Gibson Lets me Down Again

For people of a certain age the name Mel Gibson means Road Warrior. The young Dr. Fischer to be would never have guessed that the awesomely cool Mad Max would eventually morph into a cackling maniac with an addiction to humiliating public misbehaviour. But the present day Dr. Fischer had at least some small hopes that Mel would hold it together for We Were Soldiers, a film based on the events at Ia Drang in late 1965.

The battle of Ia Drang is important in a number of respects. It's the first major encounter between the United States and the forces of North Vietnam in that conflict. It's an example of the early use of airmobility in that war. It features many of the hallmarks of that conflict- overwhelming American air and artillery support, a generally professional level of performance by the American troops, and the vital role of intelligence in the war. Finally, it represents a mammoth and bloody encounter that takes place in an isolated and strategically meaningless area. All these elements would repeat throughout the conflict.

In terms of the movie, I was hoping for at least a decent war film and maybe some interesting looks at the terrain. I have to say that We Were Soldiers was instead just terrible. Because the movie changes the Entire Ending of the Battle. In history the Americans don't "win," they make it through the battle. Surviving the encounter and holding the position are massive challenges but the battle doesn't end on a high note. The North Vietnamese simply melt away.

In the movie the Americans find themselves about to take on a final attack. At that point the pour out of their trenches and rout the Vietnamese. Moving at a run the 400 Americans drive the 4000 enemies UP a hill. The Vietnamese gather beyond the crest of the hill and level all their weapons at the ridgeline, waiting for the Americans to come across. It's going to be a massacre! And then two American helicopters appear literally fifteen feet above the Vietnamese and blast them all into oblivion. They don't approach, they just appear, like Jason from Camp Crystal Lake appearing behind you when you look in the bathroom mirror. They're Stealth UH-1's! Mel Gibson and his troops end the film moving through the ruined Vietnamese base camp, humbled at the massive destruction.
Yet Another Bad War Movie

The rest of the movie is pretty average but the end is so wrong on so many levels. It's not editing for time, it's not combining characters to make the story manageable, it's just completely altering the event. Why not just rewrite the whole war, make it a brushfire skirmish on a small Caribbean island and have Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison lead a rag tag squad to victory against giant zombie spiders. Get Michael Bey on line one!

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