Siege of Firebase Gloria [1989]

Genre: Action, Drama, War
Sometimes a B movie can rise above its big-budget brethren. The Siege of Firebase Gloria is a lean, straightforward film about a troupe of Marines defending an isolated outpost in Vietnam. While on reconnaissance, Sergeant-Major Hafner (R. Lee Ermey) gets a glimmering of the impending Tet offensive when he comes across a massacred village. When the patrol arrives at Firebase Gloria, Hafner takes command from the addled commanding officer and desperately tries to prepare the disorganized base for the coming assault. There's nothing remarkable about the story--this is a war movie--but it's not only told with efficient skill, it's strikingly clear-eyed about the brutalities committed by both sides of the war. The Viet Cong are depicted with as much sympathy as the Americans; in fact, through smart juxtapositions, the perspective of the native soldiers becomes increasingly clear and compelling, even though their dialogue is never translated. With clearly drawn yet realistic characters, a decent script, and unfancy but effective camerawork, Firebase Gloria paints a more vivid and unsettling portrait of the Vietnam experience than far more high-minded movies like Full Metal Jacket. Ermey gives a grounded, genuine performance, and straight-to-video star Wings Hauser is both scary and sad as a ruthless, alienated corporal. --Bret Fetzer

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