Soldiers are running through water-soaked fields desperately trying to escape the enemy-fire ripping them apart. Helicopters swoop in as saving angels, but they too get caught in the crossfire. Those few that make it onboard try in vain to reach their comrades, but as the enemy-fire grows too intense the helicopters have to abort. As they rise up into the sky the enemy closes in on those that are left behind. The emotions are strong, the music is tense and Oh my God… this is only the opening scene!
This is a scene we’ve witnessed in numerous movies from the mid 80’s, such as Missing in Action, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Platoon but also in this lesser known flick. Uncommon Valor is not as remembered as the rest, which is kind of surprising, because it’s not a bad movie and the cast is rather impressive. Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Mississippi Burning) is Colonel Rhodes whose son Frank is one of the missing.
For nearly a decade he’s tried to find evidence of his son’s whereabouts and proof that he’s still alive. Since the government doesn’t want to acknowledge the possibility of American P.O.W’s he’s been forced to act on his own with the help of a wealthy businessman, whose son is also missing. His name is MacGregor and is played by Robert Stack (Airplane!, The Untouchables TV-show).
When Colonel Rhodes finally finds the right prison camp, he need to get a team together to help him with the rescue-mission and this is where Frank’s old army buddies come in. The first to join the group is “Blaster”, the demolition-expert in the outfit. He’s played by Reb Brown (The Sword and the Sorcerer). He and Rhodes go to find Wilkes, a guy who suffers badly from post-traumatic stress. He makes sculptures from scrap-metal as a means to try to get the war out of his head. Unsuccessfully, I might add! Fred Ward (Miami Blues, Secret Admirer) does very well in this role.
Randall “Tex” Cobb (The Golden Child, Arizona Junior) is “Sailor”, a guy who’s a bit crazy and is admitted to a psyche ward. They tell Rhodes that when he was brought in, he was wearing a live grenade in a strap around his neck. He’s got his heart in the right place though, and is basically the gentle giant of the group.
Next we have the two helicopter-pilots Johnson and “Charts”, played by Harold Sylvester and Tim Thomerson respectively. Mr. Sylvester has been in a bunch of movies, like Innerspace, but I primarily remember him as Griff on Married With Children. Mr. Thomerson doesn’t really need much of an introduction, since he’s been mentioned in almost every damn episode of The Forgotten Flix Podcast so far! Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration (but he really has). Mr. Thomerson has appeared in classics like Near Dark and Trancers and he’s starring in the upcoming independent movie Bring Me The Head Of Lance Henriksen with, you guessed it, Lance Henriksen!
Ok, so Colonel Rhodes brings the veterans to a training-facility that has been built as an exact copy of the camp where the Americans are supposedly held. Once here, they are met by Kevin Scott played by Patrick Swayze (Point Break, Black Dog), a young soldier who is also joining the team for reasons which are mentioned in the movie, so I won’t tell you now and spoil it. As the story progress we learn that the bond between these men, are as strong as
it was when they were in Vietnam together. It’s never been broken, nor will it ever be. But in all this seriousness we still get some laughs, as they relax and goof off once in a while. Watch out for the dance-scenes! Hilarious!
Unfortunately they are met with resistance in the form of bureaucracy and the CIA. They want them to stop because it’s disturbing the diplomatic negotiations that are being had between the two countries to release prisoners in the near future. MacGregor basically states that the negotiations have done diddly-squat so far and why should they suddenly start working NOW? This harsh statement causes the CIA to seize all their weapons and vehicles, and issue a threat that they’ll be thrown in jail, should they continue with their mission. This of course makes the veterans even more determined to succeed.
I’m not going to tell you anymore, you’ll just have to find out for yourselves. I will say, however, that if you’re looking for a great action flick with a little drama thrown in, well… Uncommon Valor is not a bad choice. It’s got a great cast as I said before and it’s got an accomplished director in Ted Kotcheff. He’s done First Blood and Weekend at Bernie’s to name a couple of titles.
There’s also a bit of social commentary thrown in too, in regards to the whole prisoner of war situation and the government’s concern (or lack of) towards it. The movie doesn’t delve too much into it, but instead focuses on the action-filled story that it is…
I hadn’t seen this in a long, long time, so I didn’t really know what to expect this time around, BUT I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best movie I’ve seen on this topic, but it sure as hell isn’t the worst either. There are some great emotion-filled scenes to be found here and also a couple of hammy one-liners that I found amusing. I’ll leave you with one from “Blaster”, the demolition expert:
“Most human problems can be solved by an appropriate charge of high explosives.”
Until next time my friends and be sure to let us know your thoughts about Uncommon Valor in the comments below!