Sam Elliott in Rough Riders (1997)

Roosevelt and his Riders

With the struggle between the Cuban rebels and the Spanish no longer being able to be ignored , Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (Tom Berenger) pushes for war and gets it. Despite his own health issues and inexperience he insists in being involved with the action, wisely handing over command to Colonel Leonard Wood (Dale Dye) whose far greater experience makes him ideal. With men volunteering from all walks of life to fight these men are trained up by the less than conventional Captain Bucky O'Neil (Sam Elliott) who turns these mismatched men in to a band of brothers. But the reality of war when they head down to Cuba is nothing they could have prepared for.

I don't know what I was expecting when I watched "Rough Riders" other than hoping to be kept entertained for 3 hours. I say that because I am no historian and so whilst aware of Roosevelt and his Rough Riders I had no idea of how detailed the movie would be. And as for director John Milius, well some of his movies I love whilst others I am not bothered about, but I did know that with Milius I would get big action scenes with plenty of loud gunfire.

Tom Berenger in Rough Riders (1997)

So what I got was the sort of thing I like because Milius has this knack for delivering a movie which has this wonderful mix of action and comedy yet he still manages to get across the story at the same time. As such in one scene there can be bullets whizzing around and people biting the dust yet when you have a posh city guy ending up being hit his reaction to experience being shot is comical. And this is a constant through out the movie as in the nastiest of situations there can be comedy which helps men bond even when they come from very different walks of life.

As for the historical side of "Rough Riders", as I said I am no historian but as with many historic movies I would guess that there has been plenty of poetic licence used to make the events work as entertainment. I would suggest the same could be said when it comes to the characters with some having comical sides. But what "Rough Riders" has is an impressive cast with everyone playing their part in an equal manner. As such whilst Tom Berenger may have the big role as Theodore Roosevelt Chris Noth as city gent Craig Wadsworth plays his part just as well and you almost get a sense that all the actors got on with each other adding to the believe sense of these soldiers being a brand of brothers.

What this all boils down to is that "Rough Riders" maybe 184 minutes long but it is entertaining from start to finish thanks to Mlius' ability to blend comedy and action in a war setting as well as the entertaining performances of all those involved.