Top Six Vietnam War Films
The most remarkable traits of this realistically detailed chronicle of a crucial, bloody Vietnam War combat is that it steers clear of Stallone’s right-wing machismo in Rambo and of Oliver Stone’s metaphorical meanings (good versus evil) in Platoon.
Sgt. Frantz: All right, listen up. You people will not die on me in combat. You fucking new guys will do everything you can to prove me wrong. You’ll walk on trails, kick cans, sleep on guard, smoke dope and diddely-bop through the bush like you were back on the block. Or on guard at night you’ll write letters, play with your organ, and think of your girl back home. Forget her. Right now, some hair head has her on her back and is telling her to fuck for peace. This is Han. Those of you who are foolish will think of him as ‘gook,’ ‘slope,’ ‘slant’ or ‘dink.’ He is your enemy. He came over on the Chieu Hoi programme, and after he fattens himself on C-rations he will be hunting your young asses in the Ashau Valley. Now forget about this Viet Cong shit. What you’ll encounter out there is hard core NVA, North Vietnamese. Highly motivated, highly trained and well equipped. If you meet Han or his cousins, you will give him respect and refer to those little bastards as ‘Nathanial Victor.’ Meet him twice, and survive, and you will refer to him as ‘MISTER Nathanial Victor.’ Now people, I am sick and tired of filling body bags with your dumb fucking mistakes.
It is a heartbreakingly effective fictional machine that evokes the agony of the Vietnam time.
Michael: You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about. A deer’s gotta be taken with one shot.
Born on The Fourth of July
Born on the Fourth of July is…the most ambitious nondocumentary film yet made about the entire Vietnam experience.
Ron Kovic:Sometimes I wish, I wish I’d – The first time I got hit, I was shot in the foot. I could have laid down, I mean – who gives a fuck now if I was a hero or not? I was paralyzed, castrated that day; why? It was all so – stupid! I’d have my dick and my balls now, and some days, Timmy – some days I think I’d give everything I believe in – everything I got, all my values, just to have my body back again, just to be whole again. But I’m not whole; I never will be, and that’s – that’s the way it is, isn’t it?
..it’s still the standard against which all other movies about the Vietnam War are judged.
Chris Taylor: [voiceover] I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. The enemy was in us. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days. As I’m sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called “possession of my soul.” There are times since, I’ve felt like a child, born of those two fathers. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again. To teach to others what we know, and to try with what’s left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life.
The film has one of the most haunting endings in cinema, a poetic evocation of what Kurtz has discovered, and what we hope not to discover for ourselves.
Kurtz: I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God… the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.
Full Metal Jacket
Kubrick seems to be directing his vision beyond the reality of the Vietnam War to issues far more universal and timeless.
Recruits: [chanting] This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.