LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM
(directed by Rory Kennedy & Keven McAlester, 2014)
****+ (out of 5)
> Holy crap, what a fuckin’ tragedy!
. I was a self-absorbed young teen during the Vietnam debacle, only vaguely aware of the horrors of this needless, useless war until I reached 17 in high school, and faced the very real possibility of conscription within one short year. Though a generally ignorant youth, I knew enough to be anti-war and did stage one protest by wearing military fatigues to school with two of my buddies, to call attention to the issue. I got extremely lucky that America’s involvement in this war ended just as I faced the prospect of going to Canada- or jail! In seeing potent documents like this, I cannot help but be a bit embarrassed at how completely clueless I had been at the time of these events. Yes, the war came into our living room via the teevee, but it was a vague, distant thing- almost like the Vietnam War TV Show, an updated version of the weekly drama Combat. At the time, I knew little-to-nothing about the final collapse of South Vietnam and the ultimate fall of Saigon. And this film is a riveting document of that part of the tragedy that was Vietnam.
. It paints a very critical picture of Graham Martin, the ignorant and arrogant American Ambassador of the time, who, after losing a son to battle in the pointless war, refused to even entertain the possibility that the other side might prevail, when the evidence was staring him in the face. In refusing to begin an evacuation plan in a timely fashion, he ensured the suffering and even deaths of many, many people, who were needlessly left behind to be executed, or tortured or sent to horrific “re-education camps” for years of their lives.
. The most egregious injustice of those final hours: 1100 people were left waiting inside the U.S. diplomatic compound, having been assured that standing in an American embassy was just like standing on American soil, and that their rescue was at hand. But miscalculating the number of evacuees, President Ford gave a presidential order that the airlifts cease prematurely, and those eleven hundred people were left to believe that the U.S. had cruelly tricked and abandoned them. It had. It was a shameful end to a shameful war.
. But this compelling, Oscar nominated documentary focuses, wisely, on the heroes: the people who took extraordinary personal risks to help save the people who had stood by them for so many years of strife. As such, it’s a powerful story of human determination to do the right thing by his peers, even in the midst of barbaric warfare.
> LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM vital and breathtaking storytelling and just great stuff!
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