[ENTERTAINMENT]Gibson gets honest about Vietnam War

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Gibson gets honest about Vietnam War

NEW YORK - Mel Gibson on screen comes in one of two packages, either the fearless warrior of justice ("Braveheart," 1995) or the sensitive guy who can penetrate any woman's heart ("What Women Want" 2000). His latest role paints him as a fighter again, but instead of the Scotland of the 13th century he struggles in the Vietnam of 1965.

Gibson, 46, was lighthearted when he met with the JoongAng Ilbo at the Essex House hotel in Manhattan. But he turned serious when he talked of the new film, "We Were Soldiers."

The movie opened March 1 in the United States, and has done well at the box office. It is based on the best-selling book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young" by the U.S. Army veteran Harold G. Moore and the photojournalist Joseph Galloway. The writer of "Braveheart," Randall Wallace, handled directing duties. Mr. Moore and Mr. Galloway were also at the interview, and expressed their enthusiasm for the film.

Gibson stars as Moore, a lieutenant general and Korean War veteran who has an especially strong connection with his soldiers. He watches them during a vicious battle as if they were his sons. "The film is based on the true stories of American soldiers fighting in Vietnam," Gibson said. "We focused on faithfully re-enacting what really happened, without any cinematic embellishments."

Indeed, the film is a hyperrealistic depiction of the bloody battle at Ia Drang, or the "Valley of Death," the Americans' first major land battle of the war. The Americans are surprised by a Vietcong ambush, and try to fight their way out of a seemingly hopeless situation.

But why another movie on Vietnam, after "Apocalypse Now" (1979) "Platoon" (1986) and "Full Metal Jacket" (1987)? "There have been a number of films on the subject," Gibson said, "but I believe this is the most honest film about Vietnam ever made; it focuses on the soldiers dying on the battleground."

Gibson went on to suggest that this film could provide the final word on America's involvement in the war.

"In Vietnam, the United States government indeed made a mistake," he said. "It dropped innocent young people on the battlefields without the support of the public. And the soldiers lucky enough to make it home? They weren't even welcome in their own hometowns, and were looked down upon." So this film is clearly anti-war? "Yes," Gibson said.

But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have spurred jingoistic sentiments in the United States, and other war movies have been recently released. Gibson dismisses any notions of his movie capitalizing on the war mood, pointing out that it was planned long before last September. "The film is well-balanced between the American and Vietnamese viewpoints, making it far from political," he said. Indeed, Moore befriends a Vietcong general after the war ends.

"I hope this movie can heal the veterans' deep physical and spiritual wounds," Gibson said.

The movie is scheduled to open in Korea in May.

by Park Jeong-ho

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