Interesting subject matter, presented in a very one-sided manner.
This is one of the very few films dealing with the the "French" phase of the Vietnam War. It's a medium budget (even though the guns aren't fully authentic) American film with many European actors. It was made at the height of the Cold War, and before the American public became jaded and cynical over our own involvement. Many brave men on both sides sacrificed their lives at Dienbienphu, and most believed deeply in their respective causes. A fair number of rear echelon French troops---including Vietnamese and Foreign Legionnaires (some of them with ugly past lives in the SS) parachuted into the slaughterhouse, even after the situation had become hopeless. Amazingly, some of them had never jumped before! But, despite this truly monumental display of courage, the overly worshipful portrayal of the French is more than a bit over the top.
The idea of turning Dienbienphu---surrounded by densely forested mountains----into a super firebase in an area with only one all weather road and an airstrip right under the concealed guns of an unsubdued enemy, was a military blunder of the first rank.
Unmentioned in the film is the fact that the French really expected massive U.S. intervention if they got into serious trouble. But, they didn't even get the airstrikes they begged for. The ending is a bit deceptive since it is implied that the French went down fighting to the last man. Although they sustained heavy battle casualties, in actuality they surrendered after running out of ammunition, and thousands of French soldiers and legionnaires went into captivity. Many died of disease and malnutrition.
The movie does contain a fair amount of action and the battle scenes are well staged. Strangely enough, some of the best parts deal with the "soap opera" flashbacks of the main characters about their prewar lives. I loved this movie when I was a kid. Although my subsequently acquired knowledge has cooled my enthusiasm in many respects, it is still an interesting historical period piece, and a worthwhile story about bravery and sacrifice.
Another one of a rather surprising number of quality films that have never made it to commercial video.
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