Another war Another Kirby for John Wayne
I will admit I know little about the Vietnam War, I wasn't even in school when in 1975 Acting President of South Vietnam Duong Van Minh surrendered and the subject of the Vietnam War wasn't taught in British schools. Yet I know that it was a war which caused issues as it divided a nation and as such it is easy to realise that when you watch John Wayne's "The Green Berets" that it borders on being propaganda. The first 3 quarters heavy handedly delivers a one sided case for why America should be involved in the war, fighting the threat of Communism and having spent the best part of an hour and half enforcing it's views it then becomes a cliche war movie with some simple and less than exciting action. As such "The Green Berets" is not a good movie, in fact it is below par and almost seems embarrassing in its one sided, blinkered approach to the war.
With war raging on in Vietnam Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne - The War Wagon) picks 2 teams of Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. The first mission is to help secure a military camp which is under threat from the invading enemy, whilst also showing sceptical journalist George Beckworth (David Janssen - Two-Minute Warning) why America has to be involved. The second mission is to kidnap an important North Vietnamese General, a man who is surrounded by legions of guards.
So as already mentioned for the first 3 quarters of "The Green Berets" it borders on being propaganda. We watch how a sceptical journalist travels with a group of Marines to observe the war on the front line and sees the devastation and changes his mind when it comes from being unsupportive to supportive. It is almost embarrassing at the heavy handed way it goes about it as it makes out the communists to be evil people, bordering on the savage. And whilst the viciousness of the traps and the dangers the American troops encountered seems real it's all very one sided and at the same time understandably very patriotic. To put it simply for the first 3 quarters there is absolutely zero subtlety when it comes to which side of the argument "The Green Berets" is on and in being so unsubtle doesn't flow, doesn't really work and does border on being propaganda.
This first 3 quarters culminates with a rather cliche battle as the Troops barracks come under attack and then the storyline moves into even more cliche territory as the troops try to capture an important North Vietnamese General. And that is the thing about "The Green Berets" because when it isn't hammering home why America should be fighting the Communist threat it is treating the war like a generic action movie. And as such alongside a series of generic action scenes be it the battle at the camp or the dangerous mission to capture the general every single character is a stereotype. In fact it feels like a very simplistic take on some of John Wayne and John Ford's classic westerns with Wayne playing a leader called Kirby alongside an obligatory Irish right hand mand called Muldoon. Except that "The Green Berets" is no where close to being as good as one of John Ford's movies.
As for the acting well simplistic, cliche and obvious are the words to sum it up. As already mentioned John Wayne plays a leader called Kirby and other than being older, slower and slightly fatter it is a similar performance to what Wayne did is those John Ford movie, just with less action as he commands the troops, whipping the camp into shape and being a friend to a select few. And frankly the rest of the cast which includes David Janssen as sceptical journalist George Beckworth, Aldo Ray as Sgt. Muldoon and Jim Hutton as Sergeant Petersen deliver equally cliche performances causing none of them to be that memorable. But there is one performance which did work, up to a point, and that was George Takei as Captain Nim who does try to find the emotion of his character rather than just delivering the lines and nothing else.
What this all boils down to is that "The Green Berets" is a very one sided movie which borders on being propaganda as it tries to state why America should be involved in the Vietnam War. It's not a completely terrible movie but it is less than subtle and relies on cliches when it comes to characters and action rather than trying to be different. As such it is a below par movie and definitely not one of John Wayne's finest moments on the big screen as either an actor or director.