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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
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The film is based on real events depicting the battle to take 'Hill' 947 in the
A-Shau Valley, the hill became known as 'Hamburger Hill'
The film follows the fortunes of fourteen members of the 101st Airborne division
led by 'Sergeant Adam Frantz',
On the 10th May 1969 the squad are dropped off by helicopters in the A-Shau Valley,
their mission, to fight their way through the dense terrain to join the
assault on Hill 947 where the 'North Vietnamese' were dug-in holding an
advantageous position at the top of the hill.
The hill was to take many lives from both sides, including many of the squad
members led by 'Sergeant Frantz' as they battle their way up and down the
muddy slopes of 'Hamburger Hill'
A hill 'Senator Kennedy' was reported to have said couldn't be taken.
The costly battle took ten long days.
The film depicts the bloody and harsh reality's of war in this no-holds barred
account of the battle for the hill.
Some 'grainy' sequences with picture quality, however, overall a decent 'H.D'
upgrade for the '1987' movie.
Features :-
* Hamburger Hill - The appearance of reality.
* Medics in Vietnam.
* Vietnam War - Timeline.
* Audio Commentary with writer/ producer 'Jim Carabatsos' and Actors 'Anthony
Barrile' and 'Daniel O'Shea'
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on 13 August 2000
What the Empire review fails to mention is that this film is at least based on a true story which adds reality to this gritty tale.
Marvelously directed, the film opens on the Vietnam Veteran's Wall in Washington, DC to the strains of Philip Glass's excellent and chilling musical score. The names on the Wall blend to become the elephant grass of South Vietnam where the 101st are pinned down and in the process of pulling back.
We soon meet the new recruits, the cherries, the FNGs, as they are taken into the squad of Sgt Franz. We stay with this squad as they face their fears and address their heroism on the slopes of Hill 937 in the Ashau Valley.
Granted, the story is not the most imaginative: men go up hill and get shot, but it is not just the story that makes the film. The excellent direction, music and strong acting of the then mostly unknown actors merge to offer us 90 minutes of some of the most gory war pictures seen.
It is sad that this film was released so soon after Platoon as it never received the praise it deserved - perhaps the reviewers were not yet ready for such excellence?
This film is so good that my first copy wore out. I can give it no better recommendation than that. JB
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I didn't 'get' this film when I first saw it on release, until the scene where a soldier is in danger of breaking down during fierce bombardment and his buddy repeats "It don't mean a thing," in order to hold him psychologically together. The irony is, of course, that the futile attempt to take the hill doesn't [i.e. mean a thing tactically or strategically], but in a nice ambiguity that's not what the soldier means, which is closer to the Hindu motto that "This Too Shall Pass." This scene seemed intensely real, this touched me; helping me see that 'Hamburger Hill' is an attempt to depict war as war, with the butcher's shop look of flesh mixed in the Asian earth; men broken and dead and the rest damaged. As many have remarked, war is mainly about enduring long stretches of inaction and boredom punctuated with short spasms of bloody action. Thus the beginning, middle, end structure, the shaping into story of events betrays what are in fact usually chaotic matters, more remarkable for NOT holding to a neat shape, they are not elegant narratives. It's a film of pain and gore, of pointless bravery and undeserved breakdown; it's a tribute to all who fought in War.......and worth remembering what cost some 55,000 American lives cost the Vietnamese more like 3 million. War can seem glorious; this film shows that is usually a lie; a droll truth that it's only very loosely based on real events. A bracing, instructive film and far closer to war than the glossier, shapelier 'Platoon', 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Apocalypse Now' which are stylish viewing......but war isn't stylish to look at or to be in. Go tell it to the Marines, indeed..........
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No question Hamburger Hill was somewhat overshadowed by Oliver Stone's Platoon mostly down to the time of release, but this film is quite unique in it's own right and deserves some praise for it's gritty lifelike feel and solid performances. Both films share some common ground in that neither pull their punches in terms of trying to deliver a production that is devoid of the common "flag waving" glamorised productions of the Vietnam conflict. This is war and it's not pretty, graphic and likely a lot closer to what went on.

The film centres around the Battle of Hamburger Hill which took place in May 1969, an intense and difficult assault on a well fortified NVA position which required a lot more effort than initially thought, it's a good choice for a film about the conflict.

The cast is less well known though Don Cheadle is here as are Steven Weber and Dylan McDermott. Performances are very strong though despite lacking some of the bigger known names at the time of filming. This story concentrates on a platoon of the 101st Airborne Division but with the many of the platoon members "FNG" which I can't literally describe due to the F word, but it means "new guy" or "green" The reinforcements are new members with no real combat experience and are soon shaken with the grim conditions and difficult battle ahead of them.

Direction is from John Irvin and he's taken a different approach to Stone by not trying to "add drama" to the film this feels more "hands on" less cinematised and crafted possibly a little rougher at the edges the film did have the misfortune of coming out after "Platoon" and thus possibly lost some attention due to that, budget wise this wasn't a low grade production (budget was more than Platoon by some margin) and the settings and props certainly feel well crafted. If you're a fan of Vietnam war films this is certainly worth picking up both films can lay claim to relegating many previous patriotic films to history as viewers hungered for a more realistic and balanced take on a difficult and unpopular conflict.
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on 6 September 2004
If you're reading this review, chances are you've seen the bigger 'Nam movies... "Platoon", "Apocalypse Now", or maybe "We were Soldiers". I'm not a Kubrick fan so I won't mention "that other one"... These were all decent films in their own right, but there's one that stands head and shoulders above them all. And that's John Irvin's seminal classic, "Hamburger Hill".
Its timing was unlucky, its budget was low and it had precious little star content, with no real Hollywood talent in it at all. Maybe that's what made this work so well. What it does is *keep everything low key*. There aren't really any outstanding stills to grab from the film, no crowning scene that'll idolise it in film history. There's no brazen theme blaring out through your speaker systems. There's no classic lines, artistic shots or tear-jerking scenes at all. In fact, it makes the whole thing, the whole squad look so... boring, tired and sometimes even pathetic that it feels like it's got to be real. If a guy gets hit and horribly injured there's no violin music, no close reaction shots of characters' horror (ok, only once but that's because he looked like he was about to be sick).
At only a hundred and five minutes it's fairly short, but it often feels longer when you watch it straight through, and that's exactly what Irvin must have been aiming for. You're just watching these grunts swear at each other, moan about the s**t they've gotten into, and die in a pathetic and bloody heap in some water-filled mudhole. It becomes a ponderous meat grinder and almost as soon as you actually start to give a damn about any of the squad they get shot to bits or blown up. You begin to wonder if anyone will survive it at all.
If John Wayne made the original war movies, then this has to be the ultimate alternative: no glory, just guts (and many other body parts). It doesn't patronise and it doesn't insult you by shoving big anti-war messages in your face; it just lets you see for yourself.
An excellent film on a featureless disk, it has to be worth having on your shelf. I'm awarding it Four Stars on the strength of the film alone; no lover of war movies should be without it.
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on 29 October 2001
it focused more on real life personal issues in a war situation. Issues such as race, family and military rank were raised in this film but you realised that they became less of an issue as the soldiers learnt how to work together as a team regardless of personal vendettas. Whilst the voilence in both Platoon and Full Metal Jacket was horrific to say the least, Hamburger Hill focused more on the camaraderie that grew between the troops, making it firstly more interesting, and secondly more lifelike. It was the type of film that made you sad when someone died, but it also made you think about the grim reality of war, and moreover the stupidity of the battle these men were fighting. There are some really memorable charachters who made me laugh in places. 'Doc' the Medic comes to mind as a charachter who was a truly professional soldier but could see also see the bigger picture and make light of his dire situation. All in all a very thought-provoking and deep film that moves away from the conventional formula of military styled films especially of the Vietnam genre.
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on 29 September 2007
Showing the futility of the Vietnam war from one angle.

Troops would fight to a capture a hill or valley, only to leave the battleground and return to base. No objectives were held and quickly reoccupied by the enemy. The US troops would return to fight for the same ground all over again. It must have been frustrating.

The film follows the battle for 'Hamburger Hill', so named for the high casualties sustained by the attackers.

The action is well filmed and the effects realistic.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 June 2007
I always liked this movie very much. It shows the war in Vietnam really well, through the eyes of a squad of soldiers taking part in a very famous battle for Ap Bia mountain (937 meters high) in 1969.

After the battle the mountain was so much covered with burned human bodies (napalm was very much used) that it was called "Hamburger Hill". 72 Americans and at least 675 North Vietnamese regular soldiers died in this battle. And once taken Ap Bia was abandoned! It was one the most shocking moments of the war for the American public and a very strong argument in favor of the Vietnamization of the war.

The fight is well shown - climbing the hill from the jungle covered valley to the burned to the ground top, one after another soldiers of the squad die in a terribly intense battle. At some moments it goes down to the bayonets! The scene in which the top is finally reached is a great cinema moment.

I liked this movie much more than "Platoon" or "Full Metal Jacket", mainly because it is not politically engaged. It just shows a soldier's story of a soldier's battle.
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on 2 July 2004
I saw this film soon after seeing Platoon, and thought, interesting film with a real sense of earthy reality to it, but without any of the "spit 'n' polish" of Platoon. That still rings true, but it rings with a little more resonance now. It was no doubt made on a mere fraction of Platoon's budget, and so lacks the big name actors and lacks the big effects. However, some years on, I have to say that my appreciation of Platoon has faded much more than my appreciation of this film. The thing is, this film is based on factual events whereas Platoon was based on fictionalised personal accounts, and there is a big difference. I don't think this film was ever meant to be anything more than a "tell it as it was" story about a gruelling bleak tale of valour, and that's what you get, warts and all. Yes, it's full of cliche's, particularly in the early stages of the film where the characters are developed, but then so is real life! As for the storyline, historical accounts would indicate that as far as the battle sequences go, this is a pretty accurate portrayal of one of the bloodiest battles the US engaged their ground troops in during the whole of the Vietnam war. It pulls no punches in that respect.
But, is it a good film??? There are certainly a lot of better made films out there. However, I still would recomend this film to ayone who is keenly interested in the Vietnam War, particularly in view of the historically correct portrayal of the scale of the battle to "Take That Hill!"
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