Just finished a Vietnam war movie from 1989 called “The Iron Triangle.” It was highly recommended by a fellow member of the Chicago Film Scene, based on the fact that the film is shown as much from the Vietnamese perspective as it is from the American.

The problem is that the film is light on story. An American GI and Vietcong regular form a “bond” of sorts, and the film ends with both men alive, and the American in possession of the VC’s “diary.” Unfortunately, little is done with this plot point except to point out the obvious moral, that soldiers on opposite sides of a conflict have more in common than they might think.

The other problem with the film is the sloppy casting. This is unfortunately very typical, but the “Vietnamese” characters are a mishmash of Vietnamese, Japanese, and Cambodian actors, including the venerable Haing S. Ngor from “The Killing Fields” as a VC commander and who isn’t given a whole lot to work with script-wise.

The violence is minimal on the Gibson Scale (“We Were Soldiers” being the most gratuitous and extreme example of Vietnam war violence), and the performances are passable – Beau Bridges gives a competent turn as the Army captain who becomes a POW, and for his first film Liem Whatley does a pretty good job as the green VC soldier who just wants to do the right thing. The action scenes are decent, but the film tries too hard to be Apocalypse Now at times.

Overall grade: C+

Addendum: since I originally wrote this review, I’ve had a discussion with a Vietnamese actress friend of mine about the problematic casting in this film.  She gave me a different perspective: she said if there were an American film that cast Canadian, German, and/or English actors in those roles, I wouldn’t have an issue with that (and she’s correct).  So I’ll retract my criticism of Iron Triangle for its pan-Asian cast.  New grade: B-

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