Vietnam War-era films are tricky to pull off. Most times they end up preachy or ignorant, and other times they are just plain bad. Love and Honor, now available on Blu-ray, happens to be a surprising film treasure that is neither of those things. What the Liam Hemsworth starring film happens to be is a well told film with captivating characters and themes about war and soldiers that very few films are intelligent enough to explore.
The film is about Dalton (Austin Stowell) and Mickey (Liam Hemsworth). They are two buddies riding out their tours in Vietnam about to hit some R&R for a week. Dalton gets a “dear john” letter from his girlfriend and decides to go AWOL for his week of rest and relaxation and see his girlfriend in the States and convince her to stay with him. Mickey, being the battle buddy he is, tags along.
Problems arise when Dalton’s girlfriend ends up being a part of an anti-war group, and Mickey and Dalton cook up a story about deserting to get in good with the group. Mickey also falls in love. You know, the typical weekend for any soldier on leave.
The first thing that works about the film is the relationship between Dalton and Mickey. It’s a familiar relationship to anyone that’s served, and both actors deliver convincing performances, especially Hemsworth. He also played a soldier in Expendables 2 and both times he has pulled off the performances with ease, giving off a vibe of familiarity for people that know people in the military or have been in themselves. It’s a rare thing for actors to pull off, but he has twice.
Other actors like Teresa Palmer (Mickey’s love interest) work marvelously as well. It’s clear that every actor in the film has an understanding of the material, and that helps the spell that it casts for an hour and a half that much more.
What really sets Love and Honor apart is the intelligence and artistry with which it deals with ideas like anti-war vs. pro-war, soldier vs. citizen. It’s all really good stuff that makes the film not just worth watching, but worth thinking about long after the credits arrive.
The film expertly deals with the disconnect between those that serve and those that flaunt big and loud opinions about the wars, whether they be positive or negative. The film may take place decades ago, but these themes are still familiar today thanks to our own generation’s unpopular war.
Love and Honor never buys into the ignorance of other Vietnam War movies and it never simplifies itself in order to regurgitate political points. It manages to be complicated by putting something real on the screen. For instance, draft dodgers and loud protesters are never celebrated as heroes. They are shown for what they are. However, at the same time, their opinion is never dismissed.
In a similar sense, the soldiers in the film are never demonized but the war is up for grabs. There’s no major preaching here, folks. The film’s ideas are instead inferred from the interaction between characters’ and dialogue. In other words, this film is what art is supposed to be: a story that makes you think.
The director, Danny Mooney, is making his feature length debut here so there are missteps. The early battle sequence in the film and a protest gone violent later in the picture both feel more flat than they should. The third act of the film also takes an unbelievable turn, but none of this makes the picture unwatchable. It’s still a thoroughly enjoyable movie with enough fresh ideas for someone to get excited about.
The Blu-Ray disc includes a making of feature and a trailer for the film. The former is a nice touch, but it would have been better to see a lot more on the disc.
Love and Honor is surely one of the better Vietnam War era films ever made and its a hidden gem for anyone that loves movies or knows what it’s like to serve. The film has the kind of anti-war/ pro-soldier message that other movies buck in their ignorance. It’s a film with great performances and great ideas. Give this one a watch. It’s worth the time.