Flashbacks: Hamburger Hill

Posted: July 1, 2014 in Films, Vietnam War
Tags: , ,


This is Han. Those of you who are foolish will think of him as ‘gook,’ ‘slope,’ ‘slant’ or ‘dink.’ He is your enemy. He came over on the Chieu Hoi programme, and after he fattens himself on C-rations he will be hunting your young asses in the Ashau Valley. Now forget about this Viet Cong shit. What you’ll encounter out there is hard-core NVA, North Vietnamese. Highly motivated, highly trained and well equipped. If you meet Han or his cousins, you will give him respect and refer to those little bastards as ‘Nathanial Victor.’ Meet him twice, and survive, and you will refer to him as ‘MISTER Nathanial Victor.’

The platoon of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, part of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, has received five FNGs as replacements – Beletsky, who constantly frets that he won’t be able to remember everything he is taught, Languilli, who gets annoyed when people mis-pronounce his name, Washburn, a quiet and the only African-American member of the squad, Bienstock, who is out-going and has volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam, and finally Galvan, the quietest, soft-spoken soldier but the most promising of the new crew. What follows is a truly brutal, uncompromising and chilling look at one of the significant battles of the Vietnam War.

Hamburger Hill by John Irvin is one of those war movies that grabs your attention right from the start, and doesn’t let go. The characters are all distinct and interesting – none of your “generic cannon fodder” troops here. The dialogue is very realistic – there’s little in the way of action movie one-liners – and it gives it an almost documentary feel during the quieter patches. The hazing of the FNGs (Fucking New Guys) is very well handled, and you can’t help but feel for both the new guys and the veterans.


You listen to me. We’re gonna take this fucking hill, Newsman. And if I catch you on top taking pictures of any of my people, I will blow your fucking head off. You haven’t earned a right to be here. You got that?

Hamburger Hill is brutal both in terms of what it actually shows on-screen – there’s explosions, napalm, wounds, gore and blood aplenty here – but also in terms of the narrative. You’re always feeling “Oh, man, this can’t possibly get any worse…” and then it does. Horribly so. There’s constant emotional gut punches along the way, and the scene with the Huey flying over is one of the most chilling I’ve seen in a war movie.

Hamburger Hill is a true modern classic and well worth checking out.

Hamburger Hill is available on DVD & Blu-ray in the UK, and at the time of publication is available on Netflix UK.

  1. Thank you for your new wargaming website looking at movies, books and more — Good Luck!

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