Freeze Frame #73, #74: We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers is a solid movie depicting the first major American offensive in Vietnam. It features some virtuoso battle sequences, and manages to convey the heroism of these men without compromising on the suffering they had to deal with.

Two scenes stood out for me in this movie. On the army base where the families of these soldiers reside, a yellow taxicab is usually the harbinger of bad news – it’s driver brings a telegram that says that their loved one was killed in action. One afternoon, Julie Moore (Madeline Stowe), wife of Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) who commands the regiment that the movie is about, sees the cab stop outside her door. She opens it, fearful of what she is sure it means, only to find that the man wants directions to another house. The relief causes her to snap at him, and he walks away, only to turn back and tell her that he’s only doing his job. So often, in a war like this, there are stories of men like that taxicab driver that remain untold. They don’t involve facing death, but being the messenger that sees a loved one face its aftermath. It is heroism too, of a different, quieter kind.

The other scene that stood out for me was right at the end, when Joe Galloway, the war reporter who stayed with them through combat and learnt a thing or two, finds the other reporters pouring out of a plane at the combat site, looking for a soundbite. He and Hal and the others can just stare at them, their words muted by the sounds of war in their ears. Having followed them through their experience, we can see why.  Right at the end, you see Joe beginning to write this story. He says, in a voiceover:

We who have seen war, never stop seeing. In the silence of the night, we will always hear the screams. So this is our story, for we were soldiers once, and young.


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