Ive seen many of the other Vietnam war films and in my judgement this ranks as one of the best. While other films dwell on the futility of war, cynicism about why they are there, an indifferent high command to the plight of the men, along with the brutalising effect (all very true) which war has on the soldiers themselves, this film tends to dwell more on the professionalism and strong comradeship of the soldiers as a unit without being overtly gung ho. The soldiers realise that they are in a situation where they are caught between the hammer and the anvil, and that they can do little about it, but get on with the job at hand and knowing that they can rely on one another to with their lives as their training has taught them.
What gives this film such strength is that the basis of the story is true - with around 400 american soldiers outnumbered ten to one by the North Vietnamese army in the ensuing battle which is to follow. You feel the rising tension of the situation as the soldiers move into the military zone, coupled with the helplessness of the soldiers wives, some of them with babies who are left behind to wait, and the clumsy even callous way in which the army delivers telegrams of those killed using taxi-drivers.
While I am very wary of the Hollywood war/propaganda machine punching out films depicting the american soldier as good true and invincible, all of which is a huge turn off to me. Its worth remembering that most soldiers (reflective of the communites they come from) are ordinary decent people with wives and families who try to live good lives according to their understanding, and that good is expressed through the comradeship and loyalty to one another and to their unit.
I dont doubt for a second there is a lot of poetic license in this film and "hollywoodisation" of much of what happened, so remember when watching, that the basis of Hollywood is first to entertain and later to educate