Named after a Vietnam battle that left numerous GIs as so much meat, Hamburger Hill was originally released in 1988. Therefore, by the time Hamburger Hill hit UK cinemas, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket had already stunned audiences with their frank reassessments of this great American disaster and, as a result, Hamburger Hill always felt like a poor relation.
With the release of the 20th Anniversary DVD, it's a chance to take Hamburger Hill on its own merits ... and it still feels like a poor relation of Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. That's not to say it's a bad film. It isn't. It's decent. The direction is a little dull — but then John Irvin never is, was or will be another Stone or Kubrick — but the script is frequently sharp and it's certainly fascinating to see so many familiar youthful faces, such as Dylan McDermott, Don Cheadle, Steven Weber and Michael Boatman.
The film focuses on a squad of 14 U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division during their attempts to take Hill 937, a location in the A Shau Valley.held by the North Vietnamese. For ten days they try, and for ten days they fail, incurring 70 per cent casualties in the process. The battle, however, almost plays second fiddle to the interaction of the soldiers which is, according to a number of Vietnam veterans, the most accurate portrayal of squad life in any of the 'Nam movies of the period. While the script hasn't aged well as a whole, it's still easier to believe the inner tensions — and racial tensions — portrayed here than the United Colours of Benetton approach that some of the other films present. All in all though, a mixed bag.
EXTRAS *** Commentary from writer / producer Jim Carabatsos, and actors Anthony Barrile, Harry O'Reilly and Daniel O'Shea. Because, presumably, everyone you've heard of was busy... there are two featurettes, a 'Vietnam timeline' feature and the film itself includes some additional 'never-before-seen' footage.