Parents' Guide to

Hamburger Hill

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Unsparing, graphically violent depiction of Vietnam War.

Movie R 1987 110 minutes
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What makes this an unforgettable Vietnam War movie is its unsparing depiction of the horrors of battle. There's plenty of heroism, valor, and sacrifice in these soldiers as they fight what is quite literally an uphill battle, and the filmmakers know this. Therefore, they don't rely on the usual Hollywood cliches of bombastic orchestral background music, very buff action movie heroes wielding a machine gun in both hands while bellowing, "Nooooo!," and nice clean happy endings. The story and the characters develop organically, and it's refreshing to see a war movie develop in this way. By presenting these soldiers in all their imperfections, the movie highlights what they did when it counted.

While better than most Vietnam War movies, Hamburger Hill is by no means perfect. The tirades and anecdotes about anti-war protestors and "Senator Kennedy" are heavy-handed, to put it mildly. The trope of the soldier/cop/fireman who is merely days away from shipping back home or retiring who then gets killed has become one of the most predictable tropes in cinema and television. Nonetheless, the ability to truly create depth to these characters rather than relying on the usual archetypes/stereotypes is almost as remarkable as the battle scenes themselves. The takeaway is a moving tribute to those who fought in the war, a tribute that doesn't require the Sousa fanfare and the obnoxious jingoistic spectacle of other war movies.

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