Beau Bridges is an American officer with a stout heart and a non-nonsense attitude who becomes interested in the life of Ho, a young Viet Cong whose bloodied diary he finds and with whom he spends an uncomfortable few days as a prisoner. Comrade Ho, for reasons undisclosed to us, takes a shine to the American and attempts to save him from the clutches of his ambitious rival, a Cong called Khoi.
Fifteen years on, they're still making movies about the Vietnam War, endlessly dissecting it, analysing it and blowing up large sections of jungle in æNam-like locations in an attempt to recreate it. But The Iron Triangle makes a tentative promise not to be like the others. This time, apparently, we are going to see it from the other side, and we're going to learn all about those inscrutable Viet Cong guerrillas.
Bug-eyed Beau Bridges (brother of Jeff, son of Lloyd) is an American officer with a stout heart and a non-nonsense attitude: Goddammit, he's just a soldier, answering his country's call. He becomes interested in the life of Ho, a young Viet Cong whose bloodied diary he finds (its based on a real diary apparently) and with whom he spends an uncomfortable few days as a prisoner. Comrade Ho, for reasons best known to him and undisclosed to us, takes a shine to the American and attempts to save him from the clutches of his ambitious rival, a distressingly badly acted Cong called Khoi.
There follows a period where the two guys work on their mutual respect while a few sub-plots - involving ludicrous Foreign Legion veteran (Johnny Halliday) and his charge, the ruthless propaganda officer Khan Ly û attempt to keep us occupied. Haing S. Ngor, who won an Oscar for his part in The Killing Fields, is a calm Viet Cong officer who we get to hear making wise decisions now and again. Why he chose this as his only project since that wonderful movie surely take a few hours of single-syllable explanation.
The film tries hard, but the yawning gaps it creates for itself are just too deep to leap. Most of the extras, laughably, look more Tamil than Vietnamese, which might have something to do with the fact that the film was shot in Sri Lanka. (At least Filipinos, who usually extra in 'Nam movies look vaguely right). Even the stars are a mishmash of Orientals (we've got an American-Japanese, a couple of Chinese, a Cambodian), which rather puts paid to the notion that all of a sudden we're taking the Vietnamese seriously. True, this is the first Vietnam film that shows the "enemy" as more than a bunch of Gooks in black pyjamas who can't shoot straight, but we learn nothing of what it was like fighting for your country against the most powerful nation on earth.
Beau Bridges draws the short straw with the last line of the film, one which probably won't make a future Classic Speech in Empire. "I realised" he drawls, "that at the other end of the barrel of a gun there wasn't the enemy. There was a man, just like me.". Come back Rambo, all is forgiven.
The film tries hard, but the yawning gaps it creates for itself are just too deep to leap.