Review: The Hanoi Hilton, We Were Soldiers Once

The Hanoi Hilton was released in 1987 and depicts the struggles of U.S. and other soldiers in the North Vietnamese Hoa Lo Prison as prisoners of war.  Most of the soldiers were shot down.  The prison was originally used by French colonists as a place to hold political prisoners.  Check out more information on the prison at Wikipedia.  Michael Moriarty stars as Williamson in this movie, which became a cult classic.

Williamson spends a year in solitary confinement before he’s thrown in the “bridal suite” of the prison where he meets other soldiers.  The prisoners communicate through Morse code on the walls and other means to learn one another’s name and devise a plan to prevail without provoking the enemy.  For the most part, they are kept in separate cells.  The movie is an interesting look at the inner struggles of the prisoners, with a mix of young soldiers, former Korean War soldiers, and WWII veterans.

We Were Soldiers Once was released in 2002 and stars Mel Gibson.  The movie was based upon the book of the same name.  Lt. Col. Hal Moore is asked to train men to hop off helicopters and run missions in Vietnam against the NVA.  These young men are wet behind the ears, though some are eager to fight.  The movie is graphic and emotional, but well acted and paced.

Tension builds as the yellow telegrams behind arriving on Moore’s home base and his wife takes the time to inform each of the wives personally, each time hoping that the newest telegram is not hers.  The movie focuses on operation LZ X-Ray, which was the first large unit battle of the conflict.  From the bloody battles to the poor decisions and high levels of tension between the men, the movie packs a big punch.  This is Mel Gibson at his best.

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