We Were Soldiers: Special Edition (2002)

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Released 5-Aug-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Featurette-Making Of-Getting it Right
Audio Commentary-Director's Commentary
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 132:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Randall Wallace
Studio
Distributor

Icon Entertainment
Starring Mel Gibson
Sam Elliott
Chris Klein
Barry Pepper
Madeleine Stowe
Keri Russell
Greg Kinnear
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Nick Glennie-Smith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English dts 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

We Were Soldiers is based on the true story of the first major battle during the Vietnam War between the US forces and the Army of North Vietnam. This major engagement, which took place in November 1965 in the Ia Drang valley, saw the might of the US 7th Cavalry in fierce combat against the North Vietnamese regular army. This battle brought out the best fighting spirit on both sides, and caused each to gain respect for the enemy. The then revolutionary use of helicopter transported infantry, medivacs, artillery support from distant firebases, and close in aerial bombardment, set the pattern for later US combat engagements in Vietnam.

This film, released theatrically in 2002, stars Mel Gibson as Lt Col Hal Moore, whose book this film is based on. It also stars Madeleine Stowe as his wife Julie, Greg Kinnear as Maj Bruce 'Snake' Crandall, and Sam Elliott as Sgt Maj Basil Plumley. This story essentially concentrates on Lt Col Moore's leadership of his men in the midst of battle, as well as his close and loving relationship with his family.

As a director, Randall Wallace hasn't been exactly very prolific. We Were Soldiers is only his second feature, his first being The Man in the Iron Mask. However with Soldiers he's given us a war movie that tries to get right in there in the mud, blood and grime with the troops, much like Spielberg did with Saving Private Ryan. As a result there are some rather gruesome close in combat scenes, which add to the frenetic action that unfolds during the battle.

This film builds up pace fairly early on and never really relents until the end. There are some breakaway scenes back to the wives in the US, but even these scenes are tension filled. The combat scenes, which make up the majority of the film, are nothing short of spectacular. The camerawork, the acting, the directing and the visual and sound effects just make you feel part of everything going on, with the benefit of being able to 'pause' if the combat was too intense, something the real troops couldn't do. Somehow amongst the pounding combat scenes, the director managed to inject some poignant and personal moments which offered some relief whilst adding to the pace that followed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer was provided in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is pretty good throughout with no noticeable softness at any time. Black level and shadow detail are good.

    Colour is rich throughout and is true to the palette of cinematographer Dean Semler (the Aussie who also did Dances with Wolves and The Bone Collector). In one scene, at 4:19, The red lighting almost, but not quite, becomes oversaturated.

    There was a fair amount of grain visible, for example at 19:00.

    The subtitles, in English, were accurate and well timed. The 'burned in' English subtitles for Vietnamese spoken onscreen used the DVD player's subtitle stream.

    The layer change point was at 83:10 and was not the best as it interrupted the music.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This 'Special Edition' release provides a DTS 5.1 soundtrack as well as the original Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio commentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    This soundtrack would have to be one of the best I've come across in its almost continuous use of directional effects in all surround speakers. In the combat scenes there are always bullets whizzing past, rockets flying in, artillery shells, helicopters thundering overhead and people screaming behind you.

    I found the Dolby Digital soundtrack slightly better in terms of dynamics. I also felt that there were some sync issues at times with the DTS soundtrack which weren't as obvious with the Dolby one.

    The dialogue quality is fine throughout, and clear even during the extremely noisy combat. However I did find minor audio sync issues in a few places, especially with the DTS soundtrack.

    As mentioned above, this soundtrack is one of the very best I've heard for surround effects. There are sound effects going from front to rear, rear to front, diagonally and sideways. eg the helos at 39:33

    The subwoofer is used almost continuously to support sound effects. It does this very well without ever drawing attention to its presence.

    The original music, by Nick Glennie-Smith (Home Alone 3, The Man in the Iron Mask) seems to suit the onscreen events just nicely, at times sounding emotional, at other times almost surreal. There's also a rather haunting Gaelic sounding song ('Sgt MacKenzie') used a couple of times. Thankfully it doesn't feature many of those 60s hits which seem to almost plague most previous films/TV series about the Vietnam war.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Audio

   The main menu features some of Lt Col Moore's inspiring speech, and also some other scenes from the film.

Deleted Scenes

    There are plenty of scenes here which can be viewed with the original audio or Director's commentary. A fantastic collection made even more valuable because of this commentary. It would have been great if there had been a 'play all' option rather than having to start each scene separately.

    The scenes are presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed.

Theatrical Trailers

    2 original theatrical trailers for We Were Soldiers. These appear to be incorrectly formatted.

TV Spots

    4 short TV advertisements for the film. These are in 4:3 fullscreen.

Radio Spots

    2 radio ads for the film.

Documentary - "Getting it Right"

    A great documentary that runs for 25 minutes and features interviews with the real Lt Col Moore, his wife and other key people who were portrayed in the movie. There are also of course plenty of interviews with key crew including the director, cinematographer, special effects crew, as well as principal cast including Mel Gibson.

Commentary - with Director Randall Wallace

    A very interesting commentary track even though his voice is a little dry at times. Packed full of information and often relevant to the scenes being depicted on screen. He provides much background information on the cast and crew, locations, technical tidbits and also much praise for the cast and crew (especially Dean Semler). He makes comparisons with Hal Moore's original book and is honest about the any departures he made from that story.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I can determinem, only the R4 version has the DTS soundtrack, and, more importantly, is presented in 2.35:1 format. The R1 version appears to only have Dolby Digital 5.1 and is in 1.85:1 ratio.

    I would strongly recommend the R4 Special Edition, if not so much for the DTS soundtrack, then definetely for as the correct picture ratio as well as the extras.

Summary

    A fantastic movie closely based on the bloody battle that occurred between US 7th Cavalry and the North Vietnamese regular army in November 1965. This film is based on Lt Col Hal Moore's story of that conflict and hence focuses on the man, his relationship with his troops, his family and the way he out-thought the enemy and prevented his battalion from being overrun by the enemy.

    Whilst much of the film is brutal and apparently realistic in its depiction of combat, there are also poignant moments which show the other side of battle, for example the impact a man's death has on his family back home.

    This is the best film I've seen related to the Vietnam War, and would be one of the better films about any war. It is violent and does have scenes of graphic violence so is not for the faint-hearted. For me there were very few negatives about this film, for example there is some corny dialogue, especially by the gung-ho Sgt Maj Plumley...but perhaps he really was like that!

    This "Special Edition" DVD perhaps oddly comes almost 6 years after the original release and offers a DTS soundtrack and some valuable extras. The picture quality is very good, and the sound is fantastic (though I did prefer the Dolby Digital to the DTS soundtrack).

    The extras, especially the Director's commentary and the documentary, are fantastic.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPioneer PDP508xda 50" plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
"special" edition - wolfgirv
Icon uses the "Special Edition" tag on every DVD they release - Luke
Review the Blu Ray??? - Sean.
re: Review the Blu Ray??? - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Review the Blu Ray??? - Sean.