BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: Reviews
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 18:28 GMT
We Were Soldiers: Press views
Mel Gibson
We Were Soldiers gets a mauling from the British press
Press reviews of We Were Soldiers.

The Guardian

We Were Soldiers hangs on to the less problematic figures of the war movie - the concerned commander, the tough, loveable sergeant-major, the dedicated subaltern. But it drops the coward, the self-seeking senior officer, the dissident ranker (all to be found in Terrence Malick's magnificent The Thin Red Line) and there isn't a single subversive sentiment and only one four-letter word in the whole film.

The Independent

We Were Soldiers is fundamentally dishonest, both in its sentimental calculation and its vaunting of the idea that it's "for soldiers everywhere". While it pretends not to bang the drum for patriotism, images of the flag keep fluttering across the screen, and when crisis looms we are still invited to watch Mel Gibson rise heroically to action - the difference being that, where he was once the scourge of colonialist scoundrels in Braveheart and The Patriot, here he leads a line of invaders.

The Daily Telegraph

Gibson, in what amounts to the John Wayne role, has rarely been worse than he is in this, wearing a rictus of increasing distaste which seems more suggestive of dodgy on-set catering than the horrors of combat.

It doesn't help that the few genuinely poignant moments in the movie have nothing to do with him. Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan) fares much better as a war photographer out of his depth, and Greg Kinnear is welcome, if underused, as a genial helicopter pilot.

The Times

Is this story clichéd? Well, yes, if pointless death in war is clichéd. The key problems of We Were Soldiers have more to do with pace (too sluggish) and tone (too sentimental) than the fact that it is another war movie where the cast get to show off their intestines more than their acting skills. Gibson, for one, sleepwalks through his part like a man dreaming he is John Wayne.

London Evening Standard

Off the battlefield, it manipulates the emotions with scenes of glutinous sentimentality, tear-jerking trauma, corny commiseration with the next-of-kin and flag-flapping commemoration of the fallen. The Vietnam memorial wall in Washington DC carries the real names of the American dead. There is good reason for their being there. It is their space. But to invade it with a movie camera and conscript the lists of the fallen into the commercial context of a film like this feels like a cynical cash-and-carry operation.

The Sunday Times

Reader, be warned: this is not a film for the squeamish. Never mind the fountains of blood and the Asian fields full of bodies; it's the merciless bombardment of American schmaltz that will have Europeans reaching for the sick bag. You've got to have a lot of balls - or little brain - to include a scene where a young soldier who has just become a dad is shot, and, as the violins start in, says, with a smile on his face: "I'm glad I could die for my country."

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Reviews
Soldiers flies Stars and Stripes
08 Mar 02 | Reviews
We Were Soldiers: Your views
25 May 01 | Reviews
Pearl Harbor sinks fast
20 Jul 99 | UK
Hero's Hollywood make-over
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Reviews stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Reviews stories