Hamburger Hill [1987]

Hamburger Hill [1987]

Hamburger Hill [1987]
Directors: John Irvin
Genre: Drama/War/Action
Language: English
Country: USA

As one of countless late 80’s Vietnam War movies, Hamburger Hill unfortunately became overlooked by many. Employing a cast of relative unknowns at the time, including many first major roles for some later established stars (Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott, Courtney Vance, Steven Weber), John Irvin’s directorial effort tells the tale of a U.S. Army platoon’s battle to obtain control of the mountain known as Hill 937 (also: ‘Hamburger Hill’). This is a true story of what became a bloody 10-day assault, one that caused massive casualties for both American and North Vietnamese forces. This portrayal has frequently been named one of the most realistic war movies ever made.

While many similar genre movies at the time were about the broad scope of war, Hamburger Hill focuses entirely on the soldiers themselves. There are fourteen men in this platoon, and although character development is kept to a minimum for most of them, the film effortlessly shows the strong sense of camaraderie amongst the troops. These are men who are fighting off racial tensions that are increased by the stresses of war, all the while trying to keep morale as high as possible. This is painfully difficult to do, however, when the soldiers keep hearing what’s happening back home. “Long haired hippies” are throwing bags of dog shit at returning soldiers, parents of deceased troops are receiving hate mail, and one soldier’s girlfriend has told him that she will no longer be sending him letters because her college friends told her it is immoral. I found the tales of stories back home to be fascinating, although some may be quick to dismiss this as “anti-anti-war.”

Hamburger Hill does a great job of making you feel like you are there in the middle of the action, and it truly excels at showing the brotherly bond inside the platoon. While the movie overall does not really break any new ground, the banter and stories told by the characters are well-written enough to keep interest in between the grueling action scenes. Although a step below the top tier of Vietnam War classics such as Platoon and Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill is definitely still worth seeing.

7.5/10

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3 thoughts on “Hamburger Hill [1987]

  1. Dan says:

    An underrated Vietnam war film for me. Good review. It is one of the few Vietnam films that looks at the problems down racial lines within the American camp. It is also one of the most graphically brutal films made about the conflict.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, Dan. I certainly agree about this being one of the more underrated Vietnam War films, especially since I knew very little about it before watching.

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