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Randall Wallace
Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear
Writing Credits:
Randall Wallace

The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend:
$20,212,543 on 3143 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby EX 5.1
English DTS 6.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $22.98
Release Date: 6/3/2008

• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Randall Wallace
• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
• “Getting It Right” Documentary
• Trailer & Previews


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


We Were Soldiers [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2023)

Here’s what I learned from 2002’s We Were Soldiers: if you serve in the military during a time of war, never ever impregnate your wife. That status will doom you to maiming or worse, and your life will likely take a turn for the worse right after you proudly declare your upcoming fatherhood.

To call Soldiers cliché would be an understatement. The movie manages to deliver a few reasonably powerful moments, but it buries these within a predictable and treacly storyline that frequently collapses under the weight of its stereotypes and sentiment.

After a prologue that shows a battle between the Vietnamese and the French during 1954, Soldiers follows Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), the newly appointed commander of the Seventh Cavalry. The early parts of the flick depict his training of the troops as well as some other prominent characters.

Wacky but dependable helicopter pilot Bruce “Snake Shit” Crandall (Greg Kinnear), new father Jack Geoghegan (Chris Klein), and gruff Sgt. Major Plumley (Sam Elliott) receive the most screen-time, along with some wives like Julie Moore (Madeleine Stowe) and Barbara Geoghegan (Keri Russell).

Before too long, Moore and company head to Vietnam, where they become among the very first American troops to engage in battle with the North Vietnamese in November 1965. The majority of the film features this long and perilous fight, and we also meet another major character mid-film: military journalist Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper).

Most of the movie concentrates on the fight in Vietnam. However, the story also detours back to the US on occasion, where we watch the reactions of the wives to the news they receive.

And that’s just one of the many flaws in Soldiers. as the sojourns back to America totally ruin the flow of the film. It feels inappropriately jarring to leave the battlefield and check out the ladies back home.

Admittedly, I admire the intention, which intends to show another side of things. However, the execution harms the piece as a whole.

Actually, I like a lot of the concept behind Soldiers but feel the movie itself falls flat most of the time. Much of the film simply seems very recycled.

The fight sequences emulate the graphic nature of Saving Private Ryan, but without the same effect. Too much of Soldiers feels like a collection of killshots, many of which receive slow-motion depiction.

The movie seems more concerned with technical virtuosity and ramming home the “war is hell” side of things. This deadens the senses and ultimately feels gratuitous.

As I alluded at the start of the review, most of the characters come across like generic stereotypes. I wasn’t joking when I indicated that new fatherhood dooms soldiers in this movie, as more than one suffers the consequences.

The film also tries to humanize the Vietnamese - another admirable attempt - but it fails to do so well. Those elements just come across as token stabs.

The story comes across as too linear and tidy. It feels like every plot point eventually has a concrete payoff, and they make the tale seem too convenient.

While I respect a tightly constructed film, this one appears like they worked it over too heavily and left no room for looseness. As a result, the film has a stale and contrived quality to it.

Unfortunately, much of the story lacks tension as well, at least for those folks who read the opening credits. While I won’t totally spill the beans, if you pay attention at the start, you’ll clearly learn that one of the film’s major characters survives the fight.

As I often state, many movies are predictable, so this doesn’t become a fatal flaw. However, since Soldiers actively pushes the suspense in regard to who makes it and who doesn’t, those areas fall flat since we already know the answer, at least in regard to this character.

We Were Soldiers tells an important story, and occasionally, it does so in a compelling and moving way. Unfortunately, its positive moments are undercut by too much emphasis on technical wizardry and too little stress on rich and vivid characterizations. In the end, the film seems like a noble failure.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

We Were Soldiers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A relatively early release, this became a spotty image.

The main issue came from the heaps and globs of “grain”, which I put in quotes because I suspect the encoding amplified the grain found in the source. This felt much more like noise than grain and looked abnormal and distracting.

The “grain”/noise impacted all aspects of the image, and sharpness became one of the victims. While much of the film showed pretty good delineation, more than a few shots ended up as fuzzy and “off”, at least partly due to all the noise.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge haloes remained minor. Print flaws failed to become an issue.

Colors went for a fairly standard desaturated vibe typical of the genre. Expect a lot of green and amber, though abandon hope that they’ll escape the Wrath of the “Grain”, as they tended to seem even blander than they should.

Blacks appeared crushed, and shadows seemed a bit dense. Even given the “documentary-style” nature of the source, this turned into a surprisingly blah image.

Soldiers came with both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS 6.1 soundtracks. I detected no obvious differences between the pair, as both offered appealing mixes.

The soundfields seemed active and accurate. Music displayed good stereo imaging, and all the channels provided vivid and distinctive material.

Of course, the tracks worked best during the many battle sequences, and those scenes blasted the action well. Helicopters flew by realistically and smoothly, and both bullets and explosions moved around the spectrum in a compelling and believable manner. The audio panned cleanly across the channels and the whole thing blended together nicely.

Sound quality also appeared solid. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility.

Music came across as bright and vivid and showed fine range and fidelity. Effects dominated the show, as they seemed accurate and rich at all times.

The track boasted excellent bass response, so low-end material sounded deep and tight and never displayed any boomy qualities. Ultimately, the soundtracks of We Were Soldiers worked well and brought the action to life.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Even with the “expansions” of Dolby EX and DTS 6.1, the audio felt similar – and I deducted points due to the absence of lossless tracks.

Visuals offered a mild boost due to the superior capabilities of Blu-ray but I wouldn’t expect much of a leap. The Blu-ray just seemed too iffy to become a clear upgrade over the DVD.

The Blu-ray reproduced the DVD’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from director/writer Randall Wallace. He provides a fairly engaging running, screen-specific piece.

Wallace nicely mixes remarks about technical aspects of the shoot with information about working with the actors and storytelling elements. Most of his material concentrates on the factual parts of the film, though, as Wallace provides a strong expansion on the true-to-life background.

Few empty spaces occur, but Wallace devotes far too much of the track to praise for the participants. I expect some of this, but the director dwells on the topic too heavily. Nonetheless, his commentary works well as a whole and offers some good information about the film.

Next we discover Getting It Right, a 25-minute, 33-second documentary about the film. The program includes notes from Wallace, the real-life Lt. General Hal Moore, his wife Julie, Major Bruce Crandall, and reporter Joe Galloway, director of photography Dean Semler, special effects coordinator Paul Lombardi, military technical advisor Jason Powell, production designer Tom Sanders, makeup supervisor Michael Mills, costume designer Michael T. Boyd, property master Jim Zemansky, visual effects supervisor Dave Goldberg, editor William Hoy, composer Nick Glennie-Smith, sound designers Mark Stoeckinger and Lon Bender, and actor Mel Gibson. (Actors Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, and Barry Pepper also comment briefly during some shots from the set.)

”Right” offers a fairly ordinary documentary. It tries to cover all facets of the production and also place things in historical perspective, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I liked the idea of the all-encompassing program, but there’s way too much material to go over in such a short show. This means too many topics fly by too quickly.

I’d love to have an hour or so with just Moore and the other real-life participants, but we only get a couple of minutes from them. The rest of the program zips through other elements with equal rapidity.

“Right” includes some good moments - especially Keri Russell’s audition and real-life Barbara’s reaction to Russell on the set - but it seems too brief and superficial to provide much useful information.

10 deleted scenes occupy a total of 21 minutes, 20 seconds. These offer added character beats for the most part and prove moderately engaging.

One can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Wallace, who offers some interesting remarks about the segments. He gives us some background and usually - but not always - tells us why the material failed to make the film.

As with his commentary for the main film, Wallace remains chatty and informative, so these remarks merit a listen.

We also find the movie’s trailer. Previews simply advertises Blu-ray Disc itself, but it lacks any movie-specific promos.

Though I admire the intentions behind We Were Soldiers, I did not care for the film itself. The movie wants to depict the reality of a historically significant battle in Vietnam, but the result feels pat, trite and predictable. The Blu-ray offers largely solid audio and some good bonus materials but picture seems problematic. This becomes an inconsistent Blu-ray that could use an update.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of WE WERE SOLDIERS

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