84 Charlie MoPic – the Best Vietnam Movie You Never Saw

The Odd, Angry Shot. The Lighthorsemen. The Man Who Would Be King. We’re big fans of older, lesser-known movies, particularly lesser-known war films. Today we bring you a review of just such a film courtesy of our friend Mike Durand, who has (happily) resumed writing more than the odd profane scribble in public bathroom stalls.  Mad Duo

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84 Charlie MoPic – the Best Vietnam Movie You Never Saw

By the mid-1980s Hollywood was ready to seriously explore the Vietnam War, not just time after-effects but the war itself. Platoon, the 1986 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, was written and directed by former US Army infantrymen and Vietnam veteran, Oliver Stone. It was also a green light for major studios to begin production on Vietnam War movies.

The following year saw the release of Hamburger Hill and Full Metal Jacket. Meanwhile, the networks were not to be left out. CBS and ABC (respectively) aired their own war dramas, Tour of Duty and China Beach during prime time. All the while, writer/director Patrick Sheane Duncan was working on his own Vietnam War movie, based on the 15 months he spent in South Vietnam with the United States Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Working with a very small budget and virtually unknown actors, filming in Southern California, he was making what arguably could be the best Vietnam War movie you have never seen: ‘84Charlie MoPic’. The film is seen through the lens and only the lens, of “MoPic”(Byron Thames) a US Army Motion Picture Cameraman (MOS designator 84Charlie20) as he documents the mission of an Army Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team into the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. The LRRP team members must do their job, keep him alive and keep him from ruining the mission or getting them killed.

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The team’s babysitting duties don’t end with MoPic, however. Just before the mission starts they are introduced to their new fresh off the Freedom Bird, looking-to-make-a-name-for-himself, ticket-punching-career-minded platoon leader, Eltee, played by Jonathan Emerson. Fortunately the team, consisting of riflemen/RTO Easy (Nicholas Cascone), machine gunner Hammer (Christopher Burgard), medic Pretty Boy (Jason Tomlins), good old boy and shotgun toting point man Cracker (Glenn Morshower) are well lead by their hardened and experienced team leader, OD (Richard Brooks).

As the mission progresses things steadily begin to go wrong for the team. Their Area of Operations contains more North Vietnamese than they expected and the tension builds, all expertly captured by MoPic. You would think that having only one camera would limit the storytelling, but this is not true. Instead, it focuses the story, giving the movie a Soldier’s perspective on the war. There are no larger political considerations, no movements of great armies. There are no distracting sub-plots, only the immediate fight for survival, not only in combat but in the day-to-day activities of this one small patrol in the mountains where Death may appear at any time.

Having been a Soldier in combat this rings absolutely true. This you-are-there focus brings a tangible feeling of tension and reality to the film, which is expertly conveyed by the actors. When I first saw the movie I wasn’t 100% certain it was fiction. I wondered if it was, in fact, a documentary. Adding to the movie is the care the director has taken to ensure accuracy in tactics and the depiction of life in the field. Sure, reality has to be sacrificed sometimes in order to further the story and flesh out the characters. The Soldiers talk way too and much too loudly. They also occasionally crash through the jungle in a sort of Godzilla through downtown Tokyo in search of a toilet after an all-night bender capped off by a stop by Taco Bell fashion. Those things aside, there are many good points—one of those is the fact that the characters actually pull security. That is a major plus, is something that is neglected in most military movies.

In two other notable scenes, OD gives the Eltee a pretty good verbal bitch slap about lighting a menthol cigarette in the field during the day, explaining that smoke can be smelled from quite a distance and that the menthol will alert any NVA in the AO that Americans are around. Thanks for the tip, OD. Later Easy explains to MoPic the importance of memorizing your sector of fire before night fully sets in that way you can notice if something changes during the night. He teaches MoPic to not stare directly at a tree or bush because if you stare at it long enough it will appear to get up and move, which is something I have personally experienced.

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‘84 Charlie MoPic’ will be hard to find and watch. There are video cassettes of it that are much easier to find than DVD versions. I’ve seen DVDs on eBay and a few other places but not from any major or well-known distributors so use caution when buying. (Note: you can also find it in its entirety in several places on YouTube.)

If you want to support Breach-Bang-Clear, then feel free to buy a copy here through our affiliate link.

If you enjoy a good war movie, particularly those set in Vietnam, you’ll find 84 Charlie MoPic worth the effort.

On IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096744/

Some excerpts:

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Mike Durand

Mike Durand is a US Army infantry combat veteran of Iraq who was probably wearing a smoking jacket and fuzzy slippers while writing this. He has been featured before on other blogs and publications, including Military.com, Under the Radar, Tactical Fanboy and of course Breach-Bang-Clear. An avid outdoorsman and history aficionado, Mike recently underwent laser hair removal so he could stop shaving his knuckles. We're glad his muse is back and proud to feature him here.


Mike Durand has 5 posts and counting. See all posts by Mike Durand

6 thoughts on “84 Charlie MoPic – the Best Vietnam Movie You Never Saw

  • December 13, 2014 at 1:00 am
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    I watched this on HBO with my dad back in the 80’s. He declared it to be the best Vietnam war movie he ever(to this day) saw. He served in VN in 66-67 with the 101st.

    He absolutely hated Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and the second half of Full Metal Jacket. He though Hamburgers Hill was pretty good, since they generally portrayed the troops in a good way.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm
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    I’ve seen that movie when I was still in High School. It was so real that I thought I was watching a documentary.

    Reply
  • December 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm
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    Review The Stoned Age next. Seriously.

    Reply
  • December 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm
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    “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” is another great one to look at.

    Cheers,

    Alan

    Reply
  • December 9, 2014 at 6:59 pm
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    Love this movie! I would recommend a review of “Play Dirty” if you get a chance. The ending is such a twist and shakes the old war movie archetype. I look forward to more of these.

    Reply

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