The Wayne Review: The Green Berets
In which Killarney attempts to complete her New Year's Resolution of watching all John Wayne movies made after Stagecoach, for no better reason than she loves the Duke and wishes she lived out west.
Starring John Wayne, David Janssen, and Jim Hutton
Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) leads two missions in Vietnam, aided by his team of Green Berets and accompanied by a skeptical reporter.
This is one of those movies that loses it's shock and awe value as time goes by. Written as a defense of American military action in Vietnam, The Green Berets is basically a story of an army under-seige: US troops, on a mission to aid the South Vietnamese against the North Communistic Vietnamese, faces vicious criticism at home and vicious resistance on the front. It's big and bold, but uneven and too long. The secondary plot, where the crew kidnap a North Korean General, should have been jettisoned and more attention paid to the way cooler but underplayed scenario of a remote camp, under attack in hostile territory. There are some genuinely touching moments (Jim Hutton's unofficial adoption of a little Vietnamese boy and the final scene with the boy and John Wayne are surprisingly effective) mixed with heavy-handed scene chews (George Tekai's interrogation of a Vietcong spy is both shocking and unconvincing). The Green Berets tries hard to prove that the Vietcong are a real and present threat, but they succeeded only in creating a sort of cartoon army that's impossible to fear or be impressed by.
All that being said, I enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would. Ignore the politics and plot holes and it plays out like pure GI Joe, with daring feats, big guns, and bigger attitudes, (some of the scenes where they used real army vehicles and techniques were pretty cool - my inner teenager-self got a huge kick out of them), and John Wayne's signature swagger is front and center. If however, you haven't seen Rio Bravo or Cahill, US Marshall, skip this and watch one of those instead.
Beckridge (Janssen): Your brainwashed Sargent didn't sell me.
Kirby (Wayne): Did sell you what?
Beckridge: Didn't sell me on the idea that we should be in south east Asia.
Kirby: Have you ever been to South East Asia?
Beckridge: Well... no, I haven't.
Kirby: Uh huh.
Walks off, metaphorically dropping the mike.
JW Moment of Wisdom:
"It's pretty hard to talk to anyone about this country 'til they've come over here and seen it."
Best JW Swagger Moment:
I can't decide between these two:
1. Making "Fall back! Fall back!" sound less like retreat and more like, "Take no prisoners!" or
2. Getting a helicopter shot out from under him, then immediately leading troops to relieve the besieged camp, still smudged with the ashes from the wreckage. (Have I mentioned that John Wayne is pretty bad-ass?)
Most Surprising Guest Stars:
George Tekei took a break from Star Trek to appear in this film as the overly enthusiastic Captain Nim and Jim Hutton (aka TV's Ellery Queen) plays Sgt. Petersen, the scrounger-with-a-heart.
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