In depth, moving history lesson
Although labelled a mini series, this one seems quite lengthy (over 16 1/2 hours) probably due to its in-depth agenda. Please don't be put off however. It's a really moving and interesting account of the whole mess that was the Vietnam War. The footage and photography throughout the series shows the true horror of this war. It also shows the story behind the many protests and the political corruption that went on during the administration of 4 US presidents.
Covering the events from 1858 (yes, eighteen fifty eight) to the present day, this epic could have been spread over twice as many episodes. I for one, hadn't realised that Vietnam had been a melting pot for civil troubles for so long. For me the 'Vietnam War' was a guerrilla war between the US and North Vietnam from the late 60's to 1975. I hadn't known that the Vietnamese people had suffered for many decades at the hands of the French, before it all kicked off after WWII.
Now I'm no big fan of gung-ho, shoot-em-up, bad-ass movies with Amuricans waving the star spangled banner and this series certainly isn't an advocate of that, one little bit. The young men and women who volunteered or were drafted, were well and truly dropped into a horrific mess, that they'd never be able to solve. The US governments over the last 20-odd years of the war, made a total shambles of an impossible situation and almost 60,000 US soldiers and approximately 2 million Vietnamese paid the ultimate price. Even those soldiers who returned mainly intact, suffered chronic mental issues still do today.
Thu Sep 24 2020
I love documentaries, I'm incredibly interested in wars and I'm biased towards Ken Burns' Docs. So I may be skewed in that regard when I say that The Vietnam War was the most moving thing I have seen on my television set in years, maybe decades. It is an investment. 10 episodes, most of them 2 hours long, at times admittedly redundant, but packed with incredible insight, astounding footage, and all kinds of juicy political revelations. I have heard some criticisms that this documentary leans favorably towards Communism and does not celebrate American soldiers enough. I would beg of anybody to watch this to put aside their political views when watching this beautiful documentary. Many times during my viewings, I thought I had a firm stance on something that occurred during the war and then somebody would come on and share their view on the subject. Immediately, my view was shaken, if not changed altogether. I can't say that the film looks favorably or unfavorably on any particular political party or 'side' if you will. All I can tell you is that everybody, from VietCong farmer, anti-war protesters, prisoners of wars to ambassadors all have plenty of screen time to share their perspective. And in a nutshell, that's what blew me away about this documentary. The different perspectives that arose. I am only convinced of one thing after seeing this documentary, there simply is no answers on this war. And certainly no obvious truths. War is complex, war is hell, war wounds and war heals. You can go into this thing looking to vilify Nixon, slander the VietCong, lambaste antiwar protesters, but I assure you you will walk away having learnt something and fostered a new outlook. Incredibly highly recommended but this is not popcorn and beer viewing. Serious, graphic and powerful stuff. Amazing.
Thu Sep 24 2020
Documentary of a lifetime
Watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's 10-part documentary « The Vietnam War » will make you uncomfortable for days and might give you horrible nightmares. It is, however, important to watch, if you can stomach 16h30 of machine-guns and napalm explosions and images of traumatic violence (the violence is necessary to comprehend the scale of this war). Using actor Peter Coyote's wonderfully articulate narration as a red thread, the directors have assembled archive footage and cross-cut it with testimonies from veterans, both American and Vietnamese.
There might be a few too many individual storylines overall, and the footage of generic air combat becomes numbing after the first hours: its repetition inadvertently comes close to normalizing images of war.
It's thrilling to watch not because of the gory scenes but because it's made by competent and well-documented filmmakers who aren't worried about losing the audience. The only moments that feel almost exploitative come from the soundtrack: all those legendary hit songs almost romanticize the concept of war combat. But maybe it would be absolutely unbearable to watch otherwise.
What the meticulous narrative achieves is that it brings you closer to an understanding of the multi-layered powers at play. And that you can't reduce it to one single dynamic: it wasn't just the murky complexity of the post-WWII Vietnamese political situation, and it wasn't just the questionable judgment of three successive American presidents and their advisors, or their obsession with hunting down Communism overseas, or the ego-driven political agendas at times of presidential campaigns. It's all of the above and more, and it shows maybe most evidently how the Vietnam War forever changed the way we look at politicians.
You come out thinking that war, fueled by blinding hate, inevitably becomes immoral.
Thu Sep 24 2020