“This film documents the Vietnam War in the words of Americans who served there. It features home movies and rare archival footage collected during a worldwide search and now presented in HD. Many scenes are graphic in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.”
A while back History brought us one of the best war documentaries I’ve seen for television. That was called WWII In HD and put you as close to the real battlefield as any American has come since the brave soldiers who fought there so many years ago. The images were stunning and the descriptions came from the words of several people who were actually there. We reviewed the release. Bang it here to read up on that title: WWII In HD Review. Not content with that wonderful accomplishment, the network has turned those same talents on the far more controversial war in Vietnam. Enter Vietnam In HD.
“One left that battlefield knowing that young Americans had laid down their lives so I might live. They had sacrificed themselves for me and their buddies.”
Just like the first series, the filmmakers scoured the nation’s archives and private collections for home movies of the war. They assembled a respectable amount of footage and began the long process to clean it up and remaster it in high definition. They took several survivors of the war and allowed their words to supplement the narration by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall. The result is a closer look than even the television cameras of the day were able to provide. The various episodes take us step by step through the phases of the war in 6 parts. These 6 parts are divided into 3 episodes that are spread out over two discs.
“What I was learning was that there are some events that are so overwhelming that you can’t simply be a witness. You can’t be above it. You can’t be neutral. You can’t be untouched by it. Simple as that.”
The first thing you have to understand about Vietnam was that it was unlike any war the country had ever participated in. Up until this time, The United States had not failed in conflict. The Vietnam War was also the very first war to show up in living color each night on our television screens. War correspondents had a new weapon in their arsenal, and it was called the television camera. The nightly news was dominated by these gruesome pictures of death and destruction. As the body count mounted, so did opposition to the war. By the time the war finally did end for Americans over 60,000 Americans had been killed in action. Approval for the war fell to less than 20%. The war dominated our pop culture. Music, in particular, reflected the frustration of the times. The war even led to the voting age being dropped to 18 so that a soldier could have the right to vote. The war brought on the modern Veteran’s Administration to deal with the thousands of wounded when they returned home and throughout their lives. The impact of the war was huge, and that scope has never been captured so well as it is here.
There is a warning on each episode that viewer discretion is advised. You need to take the warning seriously. You will see battle aftermath that can’t help but move the most stoic amongst us. Of course, you might feel that years of Hollywood realism has somewhat desensitized you to these kinds of images. Not so. This is actual footage. The bodies you’ll see in pieces belonged to actual human beings who breathed their last in the hailstorm that was combat. They may have been gone some 30 years or more, but the images will leave an impact that you will not easily forget.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. You must remember that most of this footage was taken by amateurs or journalists in the heat of battle on 16 mm cameras or even 8mm equipment. While restoration efforts are evident, the footage itself has some serious limitations for a high-definition image presentation. But the effort is quite visible. The footage looks pretty good. Even if the footage is dirty or scratched, there is remarkable detail, which makes this telling so much more vivid than you’ve seen before. I do have a problem that they stretched instead of cropped at times.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 brings the enhanced sounds of battle right into your viewing room. The dialog from Hall and the participants is mixed well. You’ll hear everything quite nicely.
While Vietnam might not have changed the world, and certainly not to the same extent of World War II, it did change the American landscape forever. Today there is so much comparison between Iraq or Afghanistan and Vietnam. The people who make those comparisons don’t have the first idea of what they’re talking about. Perhaps this release might enlighten them some. It should be viewed “by all means necessary”.