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:: We Were Soldiers

War through the ages has always possessed an element of mystery and misconception. Questions relating to the who, what, when and where of war often lie unanswered or are utterly misconstrued to suit the individual. Propagandist stories filter through society protests rage and the line that exists between war and those ordered to fight it becomes indiscernible. Vietnam was one such war. While we hear tales of sly tactics and tough terrain we hear very little about the terror of Vietnam from the people who stood bravely in the line of fire; those who merely followed the instruction to fight for their country. Quoted as being ‘a tribute to the nobility and uncommon valour of those men under fire’, We Were Soldiers is a film with a purpose. Delving deeper than the gory events in the battle zone, the film honours the loyalty of those that served and offers an insight into the true tragedy of war.

Detailing the events of the battle of Landing Zone X-Ray, the story is based on true events as written by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (retired) and Joseph L. Galloway, a civilian war correspondent. Both involved in the battle at X-Ray, deep in Vietnam's Valley Of Death, the two survived the bloodshed and swore to each other that they would one day tell the tale of the battle, their brothers in arms and the harsh brutality to which they were witness. Originally a book written by the two survivors, the story has been adapted for the big screen by director Randall Wallace.

The year is 1965 and Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (Gibson) has been assigned the task of leading the Air Cavalry in the Vietnam War. Moving his wife, Julie (Stowe) and their children to a modest home at Fort Benning Military Barracks, Hal Moore trains his men for battle by day and by night devises war strategies, familiarising himself with tactics used by the great and not so great battlefield commanders throughout history. Before leading his men off to war, Moore addresses his men and their families, informing them of the nature of the battle ahead whilst ensuring them that no man will be left behind, alive or dead. With that, the troops are whisked from the families and are dropped into battle by helicopter, artfully flown by pilot Major Bruce Crandell (Kinnear). A true leader, Moore is the first to step onto the battlefield and finds himself and his four hundred men deeply entrenched in a clash considered as ‘one of the most savage in US history’. Hidden in posts dug into a mountain, the Vietnamese soldiers far outnumber Moore's troops and are prepared for their arrival. Having an obvious advantage over the newcomers, they relentlessly attack their enemy, managing to completely cut off and surround one of Moore's platoons whilst doing devastating damage to ammunition levels.

Defying orders that would have him airlifted to safety, Moore leads his men through relentless attack, watching many around him fall in the line of fire. Not satisfied with hearing second-hand tales from the battlefield, war journalist Joseph Galloway (Pepper), armed only with a camera, leaves the safety of the base, hitches a flight to X-Ray, and touches down to find himself not only confronted with the ghastly images of war, but also seriously embroiled in the heated attack. Seldom seen in a film about war, We Were Soldiers also offers insight into the lives of the families left behind, highlighting the extraordinary sense of unity established by the wives of the soldiers whilst their loved ones are away. Looking after her newborn Camille, and praying for her husband Jack (Klein), Barbara Geohegan (Russell) teams up with Julie Moore and together they help to alleviate the pain of war for the other women around them.

We Were Soldiers is a film determined to stand as a monument to all the men, both from the US and Vietnam, who sacrificed much in the battle at X-Ray. Refusing to promote an all too common ‘all - American’ perspective, the film does not hide its disappointment at the US Government's actions during the war, nor does it attempt to glorify one individual for the collaborative victories on the battlefield. More interested in providing a testimony to the men who fought and died in the Valley Of Death in 1965, and the women who devotedly carried on through the trying time, We Were Soldiers offers a graphic insight into the horrors of war whilst paying its deepest respects to those it has forever affected.

Screening on general release, including the Rivoli Cinemas and Dendy Brighton.