21 October 2003 | barnabyrudge
Did this film provide the inspiration for Rambo: First Blood, Part II?
Gene Hackman is always a pleasure to watch, and he lifts this implausible POW-rescue escapade with a mature and convincing portrayal of a father strugglingto come to terms with the fact that his son was listed missing-in-action during the Vietnam War. The whole cast is quite impressive actually, consisting of old pros (Hackman and Robert Stack), future stars (Patrick Swayze, Fred Ward) and familiar bit players (Tim Thomerson, Harold Sylvester, Randall Tex Cobb, Reb Brown).
Hackman plays a retired army officer - a veteran of the Korean War - who desperately seeks closure on the matter of his son's disappearance in Vietnam. In the early '80s, he receives photographic evidence that American POWs are still being held in the south-east Asian country of Laos. In fact, one of the prisoners on the photo looks like his son. He assembles a team of ex-Vietnam vets, trains them for a return to combat, and heads off with them to Laos on a clandestine rescue mission.
This film seems to have been the starting point for Chuck Norris's 1984 offering Missing In Action, and Sylvester Stallone's 1985 hit Rambo, First Blood Part II. However, Uncommon Valor is much better than both of those overblown comic-strip follies. Although the action in this movie takes liberties with credibility, the character development is at least quite decent and the mental impact of fighting and losing friends in a war is explored. The cast give good performances (Swayze in particular, still a relative unknown here, gives the best performance of his career to this day). Ted Kotcheff directs well, conveying disparate moods - angst, humour, horror, excitement - very nicely in a variety of scenes.
Uncommon Valor is hard to swallow in terms of believability, but it is a well-made, well-acted and entertaining jungle rescue film.