Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hamburger Hill Review

Last night's film was the Vietnam War classic, "Hamburger Hill". This was the true story of the 101st Airborne's assault on an NVA held position in 1969, and the action scenes were pretty solid--plenty of carnage, shooting at targets that were nearly impossible to see, for reasons that weren't clearly defined. In that sense, it was pretty enjoyable.

Less enjoyable were the cliches--the not-so-subtle references to lousy war protesters back home, the racial divide among the black and white soldiers, the whole "I may be a tough bastard leader but I'm going to save your lives you greenhorns!", and of course the wise-ass Italian guy who is really into cars. The one cliche they didn't go for was a bit of a surprise--the guy who "had the girl back home he was going to marry" wasn't torn up in a hail of gunfire. (If I were ever in the military, and we were on patrol, and the guy next to me talks about his girl back home, I'm getting as far from him as possible because he's going to be turned into Swiss cheese pronto!).

Another thing that sort of bugged me was the hairstyles of the soldiers that reminded you that this film was made in 1987. Really, people, you're actors! Would it kill you to get the haircuts authentic? I mean, you're not wearing digital watches or looking at pin-up shots of Carmen Elektra, so why not go the whole hog and have your hair cut military style?

One final historical note--in the battle that "Hamburger Hill" was based on, the U.S. military abandoned the hill shortly after taking it from the NVA. The movie didn't mention this, perhaps because the message was more one of appreciating the soldiers that fought rather than criticizing the brass who put them through what they went through. I don't think that omission was necessary--it seems generally accepted that the guys who fought in Vietnam deserved admiration even while the war aims were muddy and controversial. (Except if you ask Jane Fonda and the Chicago Seven, but they suck anyway and no one cares what they have to say).

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