6.7/10
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Hamburger Hill (1987)

A very realistic interpretation of one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Director:

John Irvin

Writer:

James Carabatsos (as Jim Carabatsos)
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2,881 ( 327)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Barrile Anthony Barrile ... Pvt. Vincent 'Alphabet' Languilli
Michael Boatman ... Pvt. Ray Motown (as Michael Patrick Boatman)
Don Cheadle ... Pvt. Johnny Washburn
Michael Dolan Michael Dolan ... Pvt. Harry Murphy
Don James Don James ... Pvt. Elliott 'Mac' McDaniel
Dylan McDermott ... Sgt. Adam Frantz
Michael A. Nickles ... Pvt. Paul Galvan (as M.A. Nickles)
Harry O'Reilly ... Pvt. Michael Duffy
Daniel O'Shea ... Pvt. Frank Gaigin
Tim Quill ... Pvt. Joe Beletsky
Tommy Swerdlow ... Pvt. Martin Bienstock
Courtney B. Vance ... Spc. Abraham 'Doc' Johnson
Steven Weber ... Sfc. Dennis Worcester
Tegan West Tegan West ... Lt. Terry Eden
Kieu Chinh ... Mama San
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Storyline

A brutal and realistic war film focuses on the lives of a squad of 14 U.S. Army soldiers of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infanty Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during the brutal 10 day (May 11-20, 1969) battle for Hill 937 in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam as they try again and again to take the fortified hill held by the North Vietnamese, and the faults and casualties they take every time in which the battle was later dubbed "Hamburger Hill" because enemy fire was so fierce that the fusillade of bullets turned assaulting troops into shreded hamburger meat. Written by Matthew Patay <1792a@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

War at its worst. Men at their Best. See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | Thriller | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

28 August 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

937: Posición de combate See more »

Filming Locations:

Philippines See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,360,705, 30 August 1987

Gross USA:

$13,839,404
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Rankcolor)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Don James later acted in John Irvin's film Next of Kin (1989). See more »

Goofs

At base camp, when the soldiers are playing in the water, the song "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish is playing in the background. While the studio version had been released by May '69, the version in the movie was recorded at the Woodstock Music Festival, which took place a few months later in August '69. See more »

Quotes

Doc: Surely, you people must be aware... that the brothers are here because they cannot afford an ed-u-cation.
Pvt. Joe Beletsky: So what am I doing? Sitting in some fuckin' country club sipping on seven-n-sevens and eating a steak? Take a look around, Doc. I see all kinds of white faces here.
Doc: [clears throat] Okay. The war started for you... when you farted, and said "good morning Vietnam!" See, now I was born into this shit.
Pvt. Joe Beletsky: And they yanked that gold fuckin' spoon outta MY mouth and sent me over here to see how you ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

The following poem is shown at the beginning of the credits: If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind. Major Michael Davis O'Donnell 1 January 1970 Dak To, Vietnam See more »

Alternate Versions

The Magna Pacific DVD Release: Sep 18, 2002 UPC: 9-315841-999491 is cut as when Duffy kills an NVA soldier with his M-60 the body explodes in gore and when Duffy is then killed by another NVA soldier that soldier is then shot in the back of the head and blood spurts out. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town
Written by Mel Tillis
Performed by Waylon Jennings
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Realistic depiction at its artistic limit
16 January 2008 | by jackmoss88See all my reviews

Hamburger Hill is all too often compared cruelly (and unfairly) to Oliver Stone's Platoon, a film that predates it by a single year and marked a return to Vietnam by American cinema, almost a decade after Cimino and Coppolla set the bar for celluloid commentary on the conflict. In following Platoon's realistic approach as opposed to the stylised, more artistic nature of these earlier films, as well as Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (another film Hamburger Hill was forced to compete with), John Irvin's film was seen as an inferior copy and is not remembered alongside these aforementioned films as a definitive Vietnam War film.

In truth, Hamburger Hill deserves to stand apart from Platoon as having its own approach and method. Hamburger Hill outstrips any other Vietnam War film in its pursuit of realism, going beyond Stone's fictionalised characters with their spiritual and ideological battles. It tells the true story of the bloody assault on Hill 937, from the perspective of a platoon of mostly new recruits (FNGs or F**king New Guys) lead by a core of experienced troops, headed by Dylan McDermott as the weary but passionate Sergeant Frantz. Irvin spends plenty of time letting us be introduced to the characters, their quirks, their cliques and their internal feuds before letting them see meaningful combat. As the film progresses, so does their relationship to each other and to the war they're fighting.

Hamburger Hill's god is resolutely in the details, and it in these details that most of the film's best moments lie. The little scenes, lines and moments have the air of true anecdotes: often brief, insignificant moments in the larger picture yet they stick in the mind and add up to create a collage of impression. Hamburger Hill is probably the most realistic Vietnam film yet made, and the wealth of details give a sense that this film is the closest we've seen to actually being a soldier in Vietnam. There's none of the involved psychological exploration of a single character like Apocalypse Now, none of Full Metal Jacket's black humour and archly artificial dialogue and none of Platoon's symbolic drama. The most important and impacting moments are always those of the actual conflict: from the headless corpse to the half-filled canteen to the agonising friendly fire scene.

Hamburger Hill is primarily a combat picture, concerned with the ugly vicissitudes of the battlefield and its impact on the people involved, and Irvin captures both the drama and the horror of combat effectively. The combat sequences are never short of either excitement, pathos or intensity. Off the battlefield, the film doesn't have the philosophical meditation that gives Apocalypse Now its enduring resonance, but it is not completely without things to say. The film is utterly anti-war but at the same time pro-soldier: it celebrates the men who fought through the horrific conditions, showing us what they had to deal with, from the anti-war protesters at home who convince a soldier's girlfriend to stop writing to him because it is "immoral" to the faceless Blackjack who conducts the bloodshed from afar and through the simple physical conditions they endured. Irvin's message is that whatever your stance on the conflict, the men there deserve respect, particularly because almost none of them are there to consciously represent any moral or political position.

Hamburger Hill's utilitarian design may prevent it from really being a cinematic classic, but the only chief complaint is that it is dramatically unsatisfying on occasions. The climax, in particular, does not feel suitably impacting compared to the violence that preceded it, and the film simply slows down to an end without any significant flourish. This, ultimately, is a product of its realism: the battle of Hamburger Hill did not have satisfying dramatic structure because it was a real event and Irvin deliberately maintains this reality right to the very end, an admirable gesture. Unfortunately, the director's fulfilment of his own artistic manifesto comes at the sacrifice of audience satisfaction: Hamburger Hill is ultimately too realistic to reach the pinnacle of artistic accomplishment.


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