Film Review Essay
The war in Vietnam was about many things. On the largest scale, it was one skirmish in the long, cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, between the kind of democracy practiced in America and the kind of socialism practiced in Russia.
It was also, of course, about different factions fighting for power in Vietnam itself, the descendants of complex political and historical conditions that had been in flux in Southeast Asia for a century.
On another level entirely – one that was both apart from global and local politics and yet intersected it in some ways – it was about taking responsibility. About the United States taking responsibility for democracy, in part, but much more about individuals taking responsibility for their own actions.
The question of what a soldier is responsible for in war is the central question of We Were Soldiers Once, both the recently released movie and the book of almost the same title on which it was based.
The action in the movie takes place in November 1965, in a place called the Ia Drang Valley, and is instigated when platoons from the 7th Cavalry. During the course of one day, November 14, the entire 7th Cavalry would land in “LZ X-Ray”. Over the next four days, thousands would die.
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