Uncommon Valor

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For the Jedi Mind Tricks song, see Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story.
Uncommon Valor
DVD release cover
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by David Brown
Michael Tolkin
Nick Wechsler
Buzz Feitshans
John Milius
Written by Joe Gayton
Wings Hauser story (uncredited)
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Mark Melnick
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 16, 1983 (1983-12-16) (premiere)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $30,503,151 (USA)

Uncommon Valor is a 1983 war film written by Joe Gayton and directed by Ted Kotcheff, about a U.S. Marine officer who puts together a team to try to rescue his son, who he believes is among those still held in Laos after the Vietnam War. The film stars Gene Hackman, Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Robert Stack, Michael Dudikoff, and, in an early screen appearance, Patrick Swayze.

Plot summary[edit]

Taking place in the early 1980s and set in the context of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, retired Marine Colonel Jason Rhodes (Gene Hackman) is obsessed with finding his son Frank, listed as "Missing In Action" since 1972. After ten years of searching Southeast Asia and turning up several leads, Rhodes believes that Frank is still alive and being kept in Laos as a prisoner of war.

After petitioning the United States government for help, but receiving none, Colonel Rhodes brings together a disparate group of Vietnam War veterans, including some who were a part of Frank's platoon: Wilkes (Fred Ward), a "tunnel rat" who suffers from PTSD; "Blaster," a demolitions expert (Reb Brown); and "Sailor," a mental case with a heart of gold (Randall "Tex" Cobb). Additionally, two helicopter pilots, Distinguished Flying Cross recipient Johnson (Harold Sylvester) and Charts (Tim Thomerson) join the group. Former Force Recon Marine Kevin Scott (Patrick Swayze) joins the team and later turns out to be the son of a pilot who was shot down in Vietnam and listed as "MIA."

With the financial backing of rich oil businessman McGregor (whose son served in Frank's platoon and is also listed among the missing) (Robert Stack), the men train near Galveston, Texas before embarking on their trip to the Laos camp in an attempt to bring back the POWs. However, the CIA, fearing an international crisis from Rhodes' actions, intercepts him in Bangkok and confiscates his weapons and equipment. Still determined to rescue their comrades, the team members put together their expense money given to them by McGregor, and Rhodes contacts an acquaintance of his, deposed local drug baron Jiang (Kwan Hi Lim), who joins the expedition with his two daughters Lai Fun (Alice Lau Nga Lai) and Mai Lin (Debi Parker) and manages to supply them with outdated but capable World War II weapons. In the course of the expedition Charts gradually forms a relationship with Lai Fun.

Near the Laotian border, the group is attacked by a border patrol and Mai Lin is killed. Later the group divides: Rhodes leads Charts, Sailor, Johnson and Lai Fun to a helicopter compound to secure escape transportation, while the rest of the team scouts out the prison camp. They find four Americans among the prisoners but are unable to ascertain Frank's presence among them.

The teams spend the night with preparations, and the next morning they commence the attack. In a heated battle they manage to spring the prisoners, among them McGregor's son, but Frank is not among them and Blaster, Sailor and Jiang are killed in the process. From McGregor, Rhodes has to learn that his son went sick soon after his capture and died, despite McGregor's best efforts. The returners are joyously welcomed by their families, and Rhodes finds that in learning the fate of his son he has gained some closure for himself and his wife.



The helicopters used in the film were purchased (as opposed to rented) and repainted, since the United States Department of Defense was unwilling to rent the production military-spec Bell UH-1N Huey or Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopters due to the anti-government nature of the film. The Laotian POW camp was built in the Lumahai Valley on the island of Kauai, with scenes filmed in early August 1983.


The film was a box office hit, one of the top-earning films of 1983.[1] Critical reception of the film was mixed to negative, with Rotten Tomatoes declaring Uncommon Valor "rotten" with only 56% positive.[2] Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert of This Week at the Movies: The Movie Review Program both gave the film a thumbs down.[3] In his Chicago Sun-Times review of Uncommon Valor, Ebert gave the film a mixed 2-out-of-4 star review that described the squandering of "first rate talent" like Kotcheff and Hackman in a film that was little more than "two hours of clichés" delivered with "lead-footed predictability".[4]

See also[edit]


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