- Movie Rating -

Hamburger Hill (1987)

| August 28, 1987

Hamburger Hill is a very good movie that has the misfortune to drop just a few weeks after Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and just a few months after Oliver Stone’s Platoon won the Oscar for Best Picture.  The impact of those films do not dampen the impact of this one, but one tends to take those experiences into the movie with them.  It hangs just below the other two films in terms of quality, but one shouldn’t judge the film for its timing.

Director John Irvin seems to know exactly the kind of film that he is making.  He wants it to balance somewhere between honoring the veterans of the Vietnam War and encompassing their experiences, not with Hollywood grandeur but with the hellish tone that was the trademark of this particular war.

Based on the book by Jim Carabatsos, Hamburger Hill it a little more matter-of-fact than Platoon and a little less symbolic than Full Metal Jacket.  It uses the infamous battle of Hill 937 as a metaphor for the futility of the war as a whole.

This hill, which was located in the Ashau Valley became the site of repeated attacks in May of 1969, pinning down the troops who were storming it and in turn suffering a massive loss of life in the process.  The focus falls on a platoon of boots on the ground who find their numbers quickly dwindling.  In the process, Carabatsos’ script tries to see these men as individuals whose personal conflicts and dealings with an indifferent world through the media and the outside world create an atmosphere of grave hopelessness.

What is most impressive is the way in which the movie tends to avoid the obvious.  This is a bloody film, bloody and often distressing in the manner of the way in which a man can be alive one minute and dead the next.  In that way, it’s an unpredictable experience.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action, War