The Story Behind Them
Young Ben (Trevor Blumas) lives with his father Col. Holst (Edward James Olmos) on the base in Vietnam and they have a strained relationship as the Colonel doesn't know how to be a dad, he only knows how to be a soldier. But an incident on the base one day involving a dying soldier leads to Holst realising what a good son he has got even if he does skip class to run around the base trading stuff for military patches. Many years later Col. Holst visits the war memorial to lay a handmade pencil holder there as it was significant to his son and the dying man as well as himself.
That story I have briefly told is the opening story in "The Wall" and after that it moves on to another story, a young man who is a chopper pilot who back at home faced conflict over fighting in Vietnam with some members of his African American disagreeing with it. In this story there is a significant badge which each member of his family have worn during action. When this story is finished with a third story about Vietnam and each of these stories end with an item being placed at a memorial wall, unusual items which make you wonder what there story is.
That is what "The Wall" is, it takes 3 curious items which may have actually been left at a war memorial and tells you the story behind them and in a way it works. Well when I say it works if you are willing to think about things it works such as the pencil holder which Ben made and the dying soldier he handed it to combined to make his father open his eyes and realise his son needed to be loved.
The trouble is, and this comes from someone who wasn't born until 1972, "The Wall" doesn't feel realistic in its recreation of the era. You almost get a sense that the producers said to the director, Joseph Sargent, don't worry if it doesn't come across as 100% authentic as long as the emotion in each story comes across. Now that probably makes this weak for those who thought this was a war movie when it is more about how the war affected people on a personal level.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wall" ends up an interesting rather than purely entertaining movie which is more about 3 emotional, people focused stories rather than about the war itself.