25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Blood, Mud and Mutilation ... with no frills,
This review is from: Hamburger Hill [DVD] (DVD)
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.