The men of Bravo Company are facing a battle that's all uphill… up Hamburger Hill. Fourteen war-weary soldiers are battling for a mud-covered mound of earth so named because it chews up soldiers like chopped meat. They are fighting for their country, their fellow soldiers and their lives. War is hell, but this is worse. Hamburger Hill tells it the way it was, the way it really was. It's a raw, gritty and totally unrelenting dramatic depiction of one of the fiercest battles of America's bloodiest war. This happened. Hamburger Hill - war at its worst, men at their best.
The meat grinder effect. Unfairly forgotten and left in the slipstream of critical darlings Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill can proudly fly its own worthwhile flag. There's nothing preachy or political here, director John Irvin and writer James Carabatsos approach the subject with a refreshing humane honesty, making us viewers privy to the American soldiers mindset as they cope with life in Vietnam before an assault on some turd pile strategic hill, a battle that the survivors of that particular bloody conflict would call Hamburger Hill. No matter what one feels about the war, the politics of such etc, the fact that quite often Vietnam films zoom in on the misdemeanours and egotistical sides of the American presence in Vietnam, tends to detract from the bravery of men and boys who were doing the job their government decreed they should do. Hamburger Hill addresses this, proudly so. Pace is deliberate and literate, building up to the assault on Hill 937, with little slices of kinetic action inserted along the way to tantalise and torment in equal measure. Not all the acting is smart, there's a cast of up and coming thesps on show that features some who have gone on to be "name" actors, while others that were out of their depth subsequently found a level more befitting their abilities. Yet this is also a cunning tactic in the film's favour, no stars needed here, young adult actors without baggage or headlines kind of feels appropriate for this portrayal of soldiers in an alien world, many of whom would lay their shattered bodies down in the mud at Hamburger Hill. 8/10
Courtney B. Vance was kind of all over the place in this wasn't he? One moment he's an over-the-top make everything political racist, and the next moment he actually cares about everyone... and then it's back to nothing but race... and then he cares about people. He really needed to pick a direction and roll with it, because he came across as going too places at once. But otherwise this is the forgotten cousin of Platoon. It's not exactly as good as Platoon, but it is more solid start-to-finish than Full Metal Jacket was. The strength really comes from an attempt to depict the events without really making anything heroic, or action-hero dramatic. And, instead, they do their best to make it just a straight war movie. No great odyssey, no moral point, no real views on Vietnam as opposed to other wars. Just a straight war movie and nothing. It's not unlike Saving Private Ryan, in which the film is able to make both a pro-soldier statement while also being anti-war. It's a fine line to walk, but they do it with the skill needed to both show absolute brutality, and the humanity of soldiers that are put in that horrible situation.