Thursday, October 25, 2012

CRACKER? The Siege of Firebase Gloria




                In my quest to discern the 100 Best War Movies, I am working my way through Military History Magazine’s 100 Greatest War Movies list.  In the process, I am also looking at movies that could potentially crack the top 100.  One of the ways for a movie to make the potential queue is for the movie to get 4 bones in “Video Hound’s War Movies” guide.  One of those movies is “The Siege of Firebase Gloria”.  This movie is highly regarded by many so you would think it would be pretty good.  You would be wrong!
                The movie is set during the Tet Offensive at an isolated base camp near a South Vietnamese village.  The movie opens with a squad entering a village to find the villagers dead and in some cases mutilated.  “This is insanity” says one.  Sgt. Major Hafner (R. Lee Ermey – two years after “Full Metal Jacket”) responds with “This is effective”.  There is plenty of action and gunfire from here.  They walk up on a nest of VC and kill all of them (including women fighters) without suffering a loss.    Surprise, the men at the base are an undisciplined bunch.  Some are smoking joints, including the CO who is unconcerned with Hafner’s warning that something big is coming.  That night Hafner and his buddy Di Nardo (Wings Hauser) frag the CO.
Hafner is a bad-ass
                Hafner takes command and forces the men to improve the defenses. The base has an aid station with nurses which seems inaccurate for a forward base, but allows the modern day knights to protect the damsels in distress.  Two Vietnamese girls come up flirtatiously, but Di Nardo opens fire and they blow up.  Di Nardo is hard core and knows the enemy cannot be trusted.
                The assault begins.  The enemy tactic is frontal attacks in broad daylight on just one part of the perimeter.  They do not use their overwhelming numbers to put pressure on one area and then break through elsewhere.  (Do not watch this movie to learn any military tactics unless you plan to do the opposite of what both sides do.)  They also cannot win even though the camp has no barbed wire around it, no claymores, and very shallow trenches.  But if you are uninterested in accuracy, you will enjoy the mindless old school fighting and dying (throw your arms up in the air before you fall).  Did you know that after repelling an assault, American soldiers would be sent out of the perimeter to shoot the wounded enemy?  According to this movie, this happened.  By the way, did you know that you could load an AK-47 banana clip into an M-16?
                At night Hafner, Di Nardo, and Murphy disguise themselves as VC and sneak up on the VC camp.  They set up claymores which do not have wires.  They escape and then the mines go off apparently by magic.
                Another daylight assault gives Di Nardo the chance to wield a machete.  Gunships are called in to kill bunches because the regular killing is getting redundant.  The helicopters go on to spray the enemy camp and they bring in supplies, but they do not evacuate the wounded or the nurses!  Later, the enemy sneaks in and impales the heads of a gun crew without anyone noticing!
Di Nardo is a psycho, but he's American
               In the obligatory final assault, the enemy break in and even reach the hospital where they treacherously kill all the nurses except the head nurse who guns down several with a machine gun.  She’s normally a pacifist, but…  Hafner goes hand-to-hand with the VC leader (naturally), but he gets away wounding Di Nardo in the process.  The paralyzed Di Nardo begs Hafner to put him out of his misery.  You can’t torture prisoners if you are paralyzed, thus there is no reason to live.  I won’t give it away what Hafner does, but I will say I cheered.  The VC have been repulsed for the last time.  We win, but the VC leader rescues a little village boy that the Yankee dogs had mascoted.  He lives happily ever after in Communism.
                One of the things about reviewing movies is you will sometimes look back at a review and wonder what the hell you were thinking.  I sincerely hope the critics who have positively reviewed this piece of crap have done their mea culpas.  I am a big fan of Video Hound’s guide, but I just randomly opened up the book to find that it gave “A Bridge Too Far” 3 ½ bones which means Mike Mayo (the author) thinks SFG is better than BTF.  Are you kidding, Mr. Mayo?
                The movie is poorly acted (sorry, R. Lee), especially by the scene-chewing Hauser.  The dialogue is cheesy.  It is laughably inaccurate and unrealistic.  It besmirches the American soldier by showing him committing atrocities.  The only positive thing I can say is the enemy commander is portrayed in a sympathetic way.  He is similar to the commander in “We Were Soldiers”.  At the end, he realizes he was being used by the NVA so they could take over the war from the VC.  They wanted him to suffer heavy losses.  Unfortunately, the movie dilutes this message by having him make mindlessly bloody frontal assaults in broad daylight.  There are at least twelve Vietnam War movies better than this.  See them first.
 
Grade =  F

35 comments:

  1. Ouch, I've been purposely avoiding this one because of the reviews.... like this one! :D Ack, dreading it more now, Maybe good for a slot in the WWMC! I need to pick up this guide, also. :(

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  2. You should watch it just for the experience. It reminded me of the Boys in Company C. Both have their fans, but both are crap. I usually listen to the critics and find them pretty accurate, but Mayo's rating is incredible. What's amazing is there are many war movies that I have avoided because of a gut feeling that they would be bad. Almost every time I end up watching one of these, my gut was right. I very seldom am pleasantly surprised.

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  3. Hmmm. Just got Boys in Company C. I saw the title and the poster of this movie and thought, whoever gave it bones/stars whatever must have been either drunk, paid or never even wathed it. You confirm my suspicions. On the other hand you may find that a 1.5 star isn't all that bad. Critics have bad days too.

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  4. I did not want to ruin your Boys experience. Watch it anyhow and I look forward to your review. I had "Gloria" in the can for a while so it is ironic that you recently bought Boys the same week I decided to run this review. I did watch "Boys", but have not written it up yet.

    I agree about critics having a bad day, one of the Entertainment Weekly critics gave Battleship a good review! A reviewer I admire actually likes "Col. Blimp". I would have to blame that on dementia rather than an off day.

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  5. This movie is an insult to the Amrtican AND Viet Cong soldier.

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  6. Exactly what part of the movie offends your sensibilities?

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    1. Are you referring to me or "Anonymous"? My sensibilities were offended by the depiction of American soldiers committing atrocitiies and the Viet Cong committing tactical insanity.

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    2. The movie is fucking dreadful its true, but American soldiers did commit atrocities in Vietnam, and they were sanctioned from the top. To deny this with all the evidence out there is to deliberately remain ignorant to suit your own world view. If you want truth and realism, you'll need to accept the facts.

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    3. I certainly am not naive enough to think American soldiers committed atrocities. It was a dirty war. I do not feel it is accurate to show American soldiers walking through a battlefield after the battle, executing the wounded. I do not feel that happened.

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    4. I am waaay late to the party but......

      Yes, some American units did not take prisoners. Some only if they were high ranking for intelligence purposes. It did happen.

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  7. I love how this movie was un- PC and put the Badassery of R.Lee Ermey on display. Sure it wasn't tactically sound in reality but there is only so much you can do to capture excitement and drama with a movie camera. I will consider Hafner to actually be Gunny Hartmann
    who survived Full Metal Jacket and got another chance to show his "War Face" Do you got a warface? AHH!!!! That's a warface! You don't scare me! Work on it "warmoviebuff" and while your at it, man up you nitpicking whiner! War itself is an atrocity but this movie is awesome - you'll probably never see another like it because of the communist twinkle-toes cultural Marxists sensitivity training pumped out by Hollyweird these days. I can't believe you ladies would criticize this movie but I guess I'll just have to live with it!

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    1. As I mentioned, even the worst war movies have their supporters. To each his own. I am no Commie and I stand by my opinion. Everyone who sees this movie will end up saying "AHH!" The inflection will be different depending on how tolerant you are of bull crap.

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    2. I am stupidly late on this, and that anon will definitely not see it, but man, you want a truly non-pc war movie? It's gotta be fucking Cross of Iron. You just try and make something on *heroic* Nazi soldiers today.

      The bitter truth is Gloria is focus grouped to hell and back, if you watch a ton of bad war movies at once (like Pearl harbor) you'll come to realise how paint by numbers it is. I'm no vet, nor do I even know any, but I HAVE worked in Hollywood, and you begin to understand the particular formula "military consultant" pencil pushers need at a bare minimum to secure US military technical assistance on movies. It has a ton of elements, historically inaccurate tactics despite the wealth of information about the event (done so you only ever sympathize with explicitly named "enemies"), both sides have a "token" that run against our standard perception (honourable VC vs American Psycho, look at many bland Iraq War movies to see similar), women's inexplicable inclusion in a combat zone (later on through the late 80s to today they must also always be a love interest)
      Actually gonna stop myself there and tell you what I picked up on, as an easy way to tell. Bad war movies are engineered by consultants as glorified modern Westerns, complete with "brave noble savage charges" and "imperiled pioneer women", with a small twist of "not everyone is uniformly bad/good"
      Go ahead and replace the M16s with Kentucky rifles, and the VC with Mohawk wearing Indian braves.
      Behind Enemy Lines managed to get away with no love interest somehow, but the plotline is a very obvious "white hat vs black hats" setup, with the tracksuited sniper being the "implacable corrupt lawman"
      I don't really know why the US and Hollywood came together upon this formula as the "winning combination" but if I had to guess, it was truly a direct replacement for the Westerns the Boomer generation grew out of, hence the shoddy repainting job. They are all elements that demographic would *expect* to see in "heroic tales", as well as a result of "our" sliding scales of acceptable targetable minorities.
      Injuns are out? Japanese are in. Japanese are out? VC are in. VC are out? Arabs are in. (Russians and Germans are always ok though because they're white and that hits no domestic oppression points) The most formulaic war movies of their era, I notice always follow this pseudo Western construction. It is just sometimes less noticeable because a culture or people justify the use of human wave tactics in the setting (Japanese banzai charge, the lack of a fear of death among Islamic radicals, for example), but if you look for other Western elements they begin falling into place. (Hence the lack of, as you pointed out, modern fortifications like barbed wire, as it was not "built" like a movie taking place in the *1960s* but the 1860s)

      Sadly, the use of beautifully structured wide pan shots is NOT one of those elements.

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    3. Very interesting. Thank you very much. I love the connecting to Westerns. That makes a lot of sense.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Mr. warmoviebuff, Did you ever actually spend a day in uniform, or have you ever spoken to someone who was there?

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    1. My father flew in the war. I know that is far from the first person experience you are referring to, but I have read extensively on the war including many accounts that cover the soldiers' perspective. I have also interviewed grunts. I feel qualified to comment on whether a Vietnam War movie is realistic.

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  10. The Siege of Firebase Gloria is a great movie! I loved it. It's one of my all time favorites.
    To the critics, it's a movie, not a documentary, so just enjoy it like any other movie.

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  11. check the early amazon reviews 60% said it was the best nam movie they had seen almost all were nam vets

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    1. I know it has its fans, I'm just not one of them. I had no reason to dislike the movie other than it is a bad movie.

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  12. Watched this show last night, I think your review a tad harsh. The writing was a bit amateurish, the VC tactics obviously not realistic, and there were other holes, but the movie had a decent premise and worked as entertainment. I would put it about C-. There are a few scenes I thought worked well, Murphy on the mine, thought as you pointed out, parts of the raid were silly, was a good scene.

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    1. I guess I have to give this movie a second chance. Not looking forward to it.

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  13. I think it was a good movie.

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  14. "Firebase" is pretty bad...some of the dialogue reminded me of Robert Downey Jr's Sgt Lincoln Osiris in "Tropic Thunder" ("ain't nothin' but a thaing!")... but I liked "Boys in Co C", particularly the boot camp scenes...definitely nowhere near as bad as "Windtalkers", or "Casualties of War"!

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    1. Osiris also does a good job satirizing the dialogue in "Hamburger Hill". The oft repeated line is "It don't mean nothing".

      I would have a hard time deciding which was worse - Gloria or Boys. Both have their fans and neither can I explain why.

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    2. One thing about "Boys" was that it was one of earliest Vietnam War movies, coming before the onslaught of Vietnam movies in the 80s. And the boot camp D.I. performances seemed pretty spot-on

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  15. I hate to tell you this- But atrocities happen all the time- both sides- I know it is hard to believe that the "godly" Americans would never unnecessarily do something wrong- but unless you have been under fire- you don't know what the hell you are talking abut.

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    1. I have read enough about the war to know that both sides committed atrocities. What I was trying to say was I found no evidence that American soldiers went out after a battle and executed the wounded. I feel that type of atrocity was unrealistically depicted.

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  16. Sat down to watch this film yesterday. I have always been a huge war movie fan and been keen to see anything Vietnam related. The recent Ken Burns doc was fantastic so seeing this had come up on Netflix I was happy to give it a go. Wish I had read your review first. It is spot on. As a film it is terrible. The acting, the dialogue, the story, the plain stupidity of everything that happens in it are just bad, very bad. Obviously it is cheap and has a lot of the negative cliches of 80s film making. I'd like to think of something positive to say about the film, but I can't. I did enjoy the review though, thank.

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    1. It amazed me how many people think the movie is good. Some even think it is great!

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  17. I enjoyed Siege of FB Gloria and loved seeing Ermey
    in character again. Something tells me this reviewer is David Hogg.

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    1. I'm not David Hogg, but your referring to him tells me who you are.

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Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.