5.0 out of 5 stars In eternal glory...
This is a film with a difference -- many people come to it with preconceived notions of how a military-themed film should be, and are somewhat disappointed. This is not an action film, and while it fits the overall genre of being a protest film about Vietnam, it is not unambiguously so. It is an anti-war film, to be sure, but is not an anti-military or even...
Published on April 4 2004 by FrKurt Messick
3.0 out of 5 stars Good movie for war film buffs
This is a decent film for anyone who likes war-themed movies. There aren't any intricate combat scenes and the plot involves a love story or two that are a bit thin, but if you're a fan of military films, this one is worth watching at least once, if only for the one-liners delivered by James Earl Jones. Some of the film's highlights (aside from the one-liners) include a...
Published on July 18 2003 by John W. Crockett
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5.0 out of 5 stars In eternal glory...,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)This is a film with a difference -- many people come to it with preconceived notions of how a military-themed film should be, and are somewhat disappointed. This is not an action film, and while it fits the overall genre of being a protest film about Vietnam, it is not unambiguously so. It is an anti-war film, to be sure, but is not an anti-military or even anti-American film. It has an emphasis on duty and honour that transcends minor considerations of the particular patriotism for particular nations -- the themes as old as the Roman centurion's honour for fallen compatriots run through to the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetary.
The plot winds its way around the Old Guard, the honour guard at Arlington National Cemetary, charged with the performance of a hallowed trust, one of the few in a secular nation such as the United States -- that of overseeing the gravesites of the honoured dead who died after service to the nation, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The primary senior characters are Platoon Sergeant Hazard (James Caan) and Sergeant Major Nelson (James Earl Jones), two crusty veterans overseeing operations; both served in Korea and Vietnam with distinction, and are now sitting on the sidelines of the expanding war in Vietnam in a place where the body count is very apparent. Into this mix comes the young and idealistic Specialist Willow (D.B. Sweeney in one of his earliest roles), an Army brat whose father is (of course) a friend of Hazard and Nelson.
Willow has an unrequited love (played by Mary Stuart Masterson) in the daughter of a colonel, who seems to think that the son of a sergeant is beneath his daughter, even as Willow has ambition toward becoming an officer. Willow also has ambition toward the experience of real combat -- he sees duty at the Arlington National Cemetary as being uneventful -- Willow is certainly not a Patton-esque character, but rather portrays that element of the military and citizenry who wishes to be where the action is when action is happening. Hazard (and, to a lesser extent, Nelson), being world weary, tries to temper Willow's enthusiasm, knowing (and stating several times) that Vietnam is not the typical war -- when Willow says that he wants to be on the front lines, the retort from the more experienced soldiers is invariably that there is no front line in Vietnam. Ultimately, Willow does make it to Vietnam, and Hazard does decide to leave the Old Guard for a more active engagement in the war where he can do more good (or so he feels) than simply burying the dead who return.
Hazard also is involved (as a subplot) with a woman who struggles to deal with the contradictory nature of the war, embodied by Hazard (Angelica Huston plays the correspondent who has a largely anti-war feeling, but again this is tempered by not being anti-military). Hazard's intimacy with her grows throughout the film, being tested when he announces his intention to leave the cemetary duty and go to Vietnam service; Willow's father dies early in the film, thrusting Hazard into a fatherly role, so the trio become a makeshift family of sorts.
From my visits to Arlington and conversation and correspondence I've had with those who have worked there, this film is fairly accurate in its portrayal of the procedures of the place. There are some things which never change, and perhaps one of the more constant places of military tradition is here.
The backdrop of Coppola dealing with the death of his own son runs as a sombre tone throughout this tale, that has both high points and tragic points. The ending is somewhat predictable but no less poignant for being so. Coppola's idea that even with all the honour a mighty nation can muster, death is still tragic and war often has few winners (and certainly the Vietnam had no true winners) remains steady here.
There are few DVD extras, but the picture and sound quality is enhanced, with the full-screen and wide-screen options available.
5.0 out of 5 stars My review is somewhat biased.,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)I admit that my review is somewhat biased, because I got to be an extra in this movie. I was a Military Policeman stationed at Ft. Myer when they filmed this movie and I got the chance to be in it and meet the cast.
The depiction of the life of the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) conducting the funerals is fairly accurate. Overall, I think that this movie represented the Army fairly. Some minor details struck me, but they didn't detract from the enjoyment of the movie in any way.
As for the cast, my personal opinion of them varies as well, but I would like to say thet James Earl Jones is a wonderful man and in person, he's larger than life.
If anyone would like to delve a little deeper into this story, I would recommend the book by Nicholas Profitt, or I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.
5.0 out of 5 stars The End Result of War,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)Moving story about the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetety in Washington during the war in Vietnam.
James Caan give a powerful performance as an old vetern who has done his time, and his good friend played James Earl Jones who also plays a decorated vetern.
This is more an anti-war film then any thing else. Because it's the old guard that conducts the funerals for KIA's from the war that was still raging at the time.
There are no combat scenes in this film, but you feel the war through burials they perform, and conversations Cann, and Jones have with the young buck in the outfit who wants to do his duty.
While this isn't an action film, it is one hell of drama about the true effects of war. And don't think of this as just another Coming Home ( a film with a trumpted up situation, designed to tug at the heart strings, with Hanoi Jane Fonda)
I'd have to put this with 84 Charlie Mopic, Hamburger Hill, We Were Soldiers, and Full Metal Jacket on my list of all time favorite Vietnam era films.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good movie for war film buffs,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)This is a decent film for anyone who likes war-themed movies. There aren't any intricate combat scenes and the plot involves a love story or two that are a bit thin, but if you're a fan of military films, this one is worth watching at least once, if only for the one-liners delivered by James Earl Jones. Some of the film's highlights (aside from the one-liners) include a star-studded cast and good performances by the principle characters. The movie is set in the "Old Guard" in Washington, D.C., where the cast struggles in each person's perception of the war in Vietnam and how they deal with it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth...not fiction,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)I served in The Old Guard from 1997 - 1999. During this time, thousands of our boys died in VietNam and were buried in Arlington Cemetary. The soldiers of The Old Guard delivered the dead to their final resting place, while the families wept and experienced the last rights given in ceremonial circumstances. This story tells the last chapter of the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for their country...whether it was right or wrong.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic combination - Coppola, Caan & Jones,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)Francis Ford Coppola is one of my favorite directors ever, and he has done another great job with "Gardens of Stone." I had only the tiniest fraction of an idea what this film was about prior to watching it, so I had no expectations going in. The film opens with a powerful scene; a soldier is being buried in Arlington, and Coppola spends long moments on the widow's anguished face; Mary Stuart Masterson conveys such depths of sorrow that tears welled in my eyes instantly, even though I didn't know who any of the characters were at that point, or understand how the soldier had died.
Sadly, the relationship between Masterson and Sweeny didn't get fleshed out fully through the movie, and I wish it had been - it would have added another layer to Sweeny's character. The relationship that was most interesting in the story is that between James Caan and James Earl Jones; they play old war buddies and best friends, and they do an excellent job of it. Their facial expressions, body language, voice inflections, everything - they are truly outstanding actors.
There are many moments of laughter in the film, followed by powerful and profound moments of sorrow, and Coppola balances them out very well. It's a film primarily about friendship, but also about love, respect, politics, living and dying. I really recommend it to anyone who enjoys military movies, but it's not *just* an Army movie. Truly exceptional.
4.0 out of 5 stars A different look at the Vietnam war,
This review is from: Gardens of Stone (DVD)With all the Vietnam movies that have been made to date, you don't see too many that show the view from soldiers that didn't fight in that war. This movie is about those soldiers in the Army's Old Guard that had to bury all the dead soldiers (in Arlington Cemetery) who died in the Vietnam war.
The story unfolds in 1967 with Specialist Jackie Willow (D.B. Sweeney) coming to the Old Guard as part of his Army tour of duty. Willow has big plans of becoming an officer and serving in Vietnam because he belives that he can make a difference. His Platoon Sergeant, Clell Hazard (James Caan), is a highly decorated Korean and Vietnam war veteran that is also fighting his own demons about whether he should go back to Vietnam to help lead unexperienced soldiers that are dying at an atrocious rate.
Sergeant Major Goody Nelson (James Earl Jones)is a fellow veteran of Korea and Vietnam and very close to Sergeant Hazard. Both, try as they may, want to dissuade Specialist Willow from going to fight in a war that is virtually unwinnable and wreaking havoc on the American hearts and minds.
Sergeant Hazard begins a tenuous relationship with an anti-war correspondant (Angelica Huston) who has her own ambiguous feelings about the war and the toll it is taking on all around her. Sergeant Hazard must balance his relationship, the Army, the daily burial of large numbers of dead soldiers, and his own troubled feelings on everthing unfolding around him.
Specialist Willow, by chance, encounters his old girlfriend (Mary Stuart Masterson) who he had planned to marry at one time but has not seen in years due to them going their own ways over differences they had. Rekindling their lost love, they end up getting married and Willow continually pursues his goal of becoming an officer.
As the year 1968 unfolds, we find that Willow has become an officer and is sent to Vietnam. In the end, we see the death of a beloved friend and soldier and the impact it has taken on his new wife, his friends, and the fellow soldiers in his life.
Some reviewers have said that the movie moves too slowly and is not exciting enough and is boring. A small news flash for everyone - this in NOT an action movie but a drama and a very good one at that. The plot develops nicely throughout and doesn't stray from the subjects at hand. Eventually it leads up to a somewhat predictable climax but it is quite poignant and sad at the same time.
The acting in the movie was very well done with an exellent cast of fine actors. James Caan, James Earl Jones, D.B. Sweeney, Lawrence Fisburne, Mary Stuart Masterson, Angelica Huston, and Dean Stockwell. All provide very real and touching scenes that lend credence to an exceptional Vietnam movie. The DVD itself leaves a little to be desired. There were 3 trailers offered but none of them was for the featured movie. There are no featurettes or other extras one may expect. The upside is that the movie has been digitally mastered in audio and anamorphic video and has a superb picture with very good sound even if it is Dolby 2 channel surround.
For those looking to see a Vietnam war movie from a different perspective without having to be in the direct center of it (Platoon, Hamburger Hill, etc.), you will probably find this movie very watchable and enjoyable. It is well worth the price and exceedingly well done.
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked Gem,
5.0 out of 5 stars The end product of political miscalculations,
James Caan as a tired NCO meeting an eager young soldier. I got the feeling that Caan was seeing himself in this and was trying to prevent a needless tragedy. The young man meets a girl, they get married. He goes to OCS and Vietnam and returns to the Old Guard in a coffin. I think he was understanding what Caan was trying to tell him when he was killed.
This is a difficult movie to watch as Caan attempts to win a woman with strong anti-war feelings. Caan is not exactly anti-war but I think he is speaking from a world weariness of having been in two wars and knows first hand, what this woman can only intelectualize. It is an interesting plot and one that is quite realistic.
This is a sober movie, with a few light moments, but is in reality a realistic look at what life was like for soldiers burying their fellows at Arlington. A must see for anyone with an interest in the cost of war.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Vietnam Movies,
This movie sports several great performances. James Caan and James Earl Jones in particular stand out. Those two along with D. B. Sweeney, Angelica Huston, Joe Desjardin, Lawrence Fishburn, Dean Stockwell and Sam Bottoms make a great "war" movie without ever showing a battle. The characters develop the story and make this movie worth not just one, but several watches.
There were several great Vietnam movies that came out in the 80's, but as much as any of them, this movie truly brought home the feelings of the time to someone who was not yet an adult during that time.
This movie did not get a lot of publicity that Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocolypse Now received, but it is just as powerful and entertaining as those movies.
See this movie. It is very good.
Now, where is the DVD?
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Gardens of Stone by Francis Ford Coppola (DVD - 2002)