'Hamburger Hill (20th Anniversary Edition)'
(Anthony Barrile, Michael Boatman, Don Cheadle, Kieu Chinh, et al / DVD / R / (1987) 2008 / LGF)
Overview: Vietnam 1969. Hill 937. 10 days. 70% casualties. Those are the facts - this is the story. The men of Bravo Company are facing a battle that's all up hill...up Hamburger Hill. Fourteen war-weary soldiers are battling for a mud covered mound of earth so named because it chews up soldiers like chopped meat. They are fighting for their country their fellow soldiers and their lives. War is hell but this is worse.
DVD Verdict: I think the thing I loved about this movie was that it was actually about a small unit trying desperately to cope with the stresses of combat in a war that was quickly becoming unpopular at home. "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket," which were arguably better movies, both tried (and largely succeeded) to make bigger, grander statements.
This movie has a different agenda. The dialogue is often unconvincing and one occassionally tires of the constant need in moviemaking to use each charachter as an archetype. And yet, much of it rang true to me from my own limited experience as a combat infantry soldier. I loved the character who was constantly worried about all the stuff he was supposed to remember (OK, that was me to a degree, though my biggest worry was, get this, that I wouldn't have enough boot laces). The fact that the medic, who otherwise was of the same rank as everybody else, took an important leadership role in the platoon was spot on. It was also amazing to see Steven Webber, the doofus from "Wings," playing a serious role and doing it well.
In the post-"Saving Private Ryan" period, it is hard for any movie's battle scenes to measure up to the standard set by Spielberg in the opening scence of that movie. But I saw this movie for the first time before I saw "Ryan" and obviously after having seen "Ryan." The battle scenes still pain me and make me glad, ultimately, that I never saw combat during my time in uniform.
Many things in this movie look authentic. For example, when a Viet cong soldier hurled a grenade toward the American attackers, he swore in Vietnamese! In most of the other Vietnam war films, the support cast spoke Thailand, Chinese, or Filipino! The battle was shown as it happened in real life. Men groaning in pain or were cut or blown into pieces by explosives right in front of me. The best thing is director John Irvin did not twist the facts to fit his political point of view like other directors. He just presented the battle as it was.
In the end this picture made me more anti-war in general than I was before. This type of movies influences me more than the fact-twisting ones like Full Metal Jacket because I know in real life, things did not unfold like that. If you want art in your war movies, see "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket." If you want to get a taste of what it's like in a small unit, see this one. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary with Actors and Writer/Producer
'Hamburger Hill': The Appearance of Reality
Medics In Veitnam
Intercative Vietnam War Timeline
English and Spanish Subtitles