Below are my random thoughts on the movie and how it compares to the book.
- The movie only deals with the events at Landing Zone (LZ) XRay; the book follows this with the action at LZ Albany that occurred a few days later.
- The movie does a wonderful job showing the juxtaposition of military order and battle deaths versus family life and children back home.
- The movie did an excellent job portraying the experiences of Joe Galloway, the only reporter on the ground during the battle at LZ XRay. His confusion during the early part of the battle, his interaction with the troops, his decision to keep photographing what he saw, and his emotions after the battle ended matched the way his experiences were described in the book.
- One of the scenes in the movie that had an enormous emotional impact for me was the image of Col. Moore's boots leaving the ground as he climbed on to a helicopter after the battle ended. This happens only after he is certain that all his men - living and dead - are off the field; he wanted to be sure not to leave a single one behind.
- The movie presents Moore as a man of faith and shows him praying with and for his men. The book doesn't show this side of him.
- I don't want to give too much away here so I'll be a bit vague. The scenes in the movie where Moore's wife helps deliver death notice telegrams have always been some of the hardest to watch yet the most moving at the same time. After listening to the book it is apparent that the movie combined some things and simplified others to give this section more emotional impact. However this is one of those situations where the "truth" of the story was conveyed successfully by the movie despite not sticking exactly to the "facts."
- There is a scene near the end of the movie depicting American troops charging up a hill and the dramatic appearance of a helicopter at just the right moment providing air support and literally mowing down the Vietnamese troops. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming to watch, the horror of bloody death in battle mixed with the knowledge that many of the Americans survive due to the helicopter's efforts. Not understanding military terms (as I explained in my review yesterday) I'm not sure from the book if this ever happened or if it was simply added to the movie for effect. I'd like to know either way, although it doesn't really matter because the story contains enough of the "truth" of the book regardless.