08 November 2011
Vietnam In HD - From The Ground Up
'Vietnam in HD' hinges on film footage of the Vietnam War transferred to High Definition. The opening uses cuts, many less than a second, to propel images at the viewer like an M60. Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. I had to freeze frame the image of a red headed and freckled young soldier to see he no longer had a face. I'm not sure why. I guess it sums up my take on this History Channel documentary. Beyond the surface lies something more.
Growing up on army posts, the images I saw 43 years ago on the CBS Evening News were of my neighbors, friend's fathers and my father. Consequently, my expectations may be different than yours. Beneath the sheen of high def footage, cheesy sound effects and Ed Burns speaking for Joe Galloway, there are, most importantly to me, the images of a war I grew up with and have never understood.
Back then, news footage of infantrymen slogging through the red clay and rice paddies were topped off with the nightly death count. Behind Walter Cronkite, flags from the US, South Vietnam and North Vietnam represented the numbers of KIA, WIA and MIA. Numbers were high in the KIA column next to North Vietnam's flag. Everyone knew we were winning. Except North Vietnam.
Vietnam in HD delivers powerful battlefield images tenfold. Interviews with veterans are insightful and honest. It is, as Arthur Wiknik pointed out in yesterday's interview, "...about my generation of warriors. We're finally being recognized in a way that's different. It's our voices. Our feelings. Our emotions. That's what I really like about it."
Narration is shakily delivered by a brittle voiced, Michael C. Hall. Footage does not necessarily fit the battle, sound effects over silent 8mm feels contrived and 'famed' actors speak for the actual participants resulting in a clunky transition between soldier and actor. This annoying device jerked me out of the story more than once and seems unneeded.
Still, I watched the two hour screener twice in one night. It pulls you in with powerful images and despite the short comings, it delivers a story not many Americans know or ever wanted to know. If viewers are lured into watching because of the 'Golden Globe' winning narrator or 'famed' actors, then I'm all for it. The stories and the people of this war are too important.
Vietnam In HD premieres tonight at 9PM and runs through Thursday night on the History Channel.