This is war and it truly is hell. Outnumbered on the field and backed by the politically driven Defense Department of the time, one battalion finds itself outnumbered and fighting for its life in the jungles of Vietnam.
A recent reviewer here mistook what this movie was about. It is NOT about America's war in Vietnam and all the ideology behind it. Its about a battle that occurred in the early years of that war between a new type of specialized fighting unit and a very determined enemy. America wanted to engage the enemy for the first time and this is the battle. The only politics involved here is the decision not to declare a National Emergency thus allowing the Army's most experienced soldiers to leave at the end of their enlistments, when ironically they were most needed. This movie is about a battalion commander training his unit, getting orders and shipping off to war. It also gives an excellent look at what the wives had to endure during that terrible time.
If one wants to look at the politics of this war, check out HBO's Path to War
. Path to War shows the speech were LBJ sends this unit, the Air Cav, to Vietnam and the political reasoning behind it. It goes through LBJ's escalation and McNamera's change of heart on the winnablity of the war. Highly recommend it.
Anyway, in realism this ranks up there with Saving Private Ryan. By reading the book you get a much better grasp of what happened as well as the story not told of what happened at LZ Albany. That encounter was even a worse then what happened at LZ X-Ray.
All told this movie gives the feel of how horrible, horrowing and confusing first-hand combat can be. One decision can lead to winning the day, or as the movie shows, getting yourself cut off and most of your men killed. As for accuracy to what occurred, a group of soldiers that were there appeared on The History Channel's "Hollywood vs History" program and they concurred that it was 75-80% factual. 20 - 25% Hollywood. That's probably a good ratio indeed. Oh, and the little American Flag at the end was real, not Hollywood. And Sam Elliot deserves an Academy Award for his portrait of American Hero Sgt. Major Basil Plumley.