2000s The War (2007)

Published on October 5th, 2007 | by Chris

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The War (2007)

Review of: The War (2007)
Documentary series by:
Ken Burns

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On October 5, 2007
Last modified:October 8, 2012

Summary:

I can't help but think how many other stories and accounts have been lost, and putting this 14+ hours on film with this mere fraction of those accounts.... It's a piece that should be put up on a shelf, and when your kids are older, and ask about their great-grandparents and what it was like for them, you might let them see what The War was all about.

The War (2007)There have been a ton of World War II documentaries made over the last, what, 62 years?  Some range from absurd, but still interesting (like the SS/Occult stuff) to pure masterpieces such as Ken Burns' The War.

The focus in this series of seven episodes, is to let people from four US towns/cities tell their stories of the war.  Some fought, some stayed home, some were innocent victims abroad, and some lost loved ones.  But the stories are their's, and told by them.  That's what makes this series particularly interesting.

Since the story is told from these four locations (Mobile AL, Waterbury CT, Sacramento CA, and Luverne MN) the entire series does tend to take on a US-centric perspective.  A lot of relevant events and history of the war before the US involvement is touched on, but not in great detail.  And there are some events that just aren't mentioned at all.  But, after seeing the entire series, I suppose it makes sense to only tell those events that their subjects had experience with.

From the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, all the way through to the servicemen and prisoners returning home afterwards and struggling with what they'd been through....  There are moments which will make you furious, make you laugh, and at times nearly bring you to tears.  The stories told are just that moving.  There are times you can see in these guys' eyes that there are still things they aren't telling... things that they are remembering that they really don't want to.

I said in my "First Impressions" post that I thought The War was taking a bit too much of a "PC" stance.  While I still think Burns et al. went out of their way to find these controversial stories, such as the all-Japanese 100th 442nd unit Sen. Inouye was in, the Japanese internment camps, the racial oppression and discrimination surrounding Mobile and the shipyards, the same in the services with their tales of discrimination....  Those are stories that need to be told as well, and in hindsight I am glad they were told.

The entire series is presented in two "facets" if you want to call it that.  The first being the face-to-face interviews of the story-tellers, intertwined with their own photos and home movies....  The second is the exclusive use of stock photos and footage, which have expertly had sound effects added to them, where there wouldn't have been otherwise.  Every attempt was made to put you right into the situations the stock footage portrays.

The soundtrack also puts you in there as well, from contemporary music from Bing Crosby and others, to new music composed specifically for the series. (and I can't recall the guys name! shame on me! I can see his face!)  It hangs in the background and jumps out at opportune times to add just the right amount of drama to a particular situation.  You might notice some familiar voices expertly narrating some of the parts that aren't told first hand, such as Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson.

Speaking of stock footage, as the series moves along, some of it becomes more and more grisly and graphic, with lots of shots of wounded and dead, civilians and soldiers from all sides.  Be aware of this if you're thinking of presenting this i.e. in your school or where ever.  In particular the last three episodes become increasingly intense and graphic.  But I have a feeling that it could have been a lot worse.  These images coincide with some of the stories, and quite frankly had to be shown, if nothing else just to prove how completely terrible the whole thing was.

I should admit a bit of bias in this review, and let me relate a story of my own.  My grandfather was a tank driver involved in some part of the D-Day invasion.  I was told this by my dad, who then said, "but don't ever ask him about it."  And I didn't, and that was that.  He died in '95, and I don't believe he told his story to anyone, at least anyone else who will re-tell it.

I can't help but think how many other stories and accounts have been lost, and putting this 14+ hours on film with this mere fraction of those accounts....  It's a piece that should be put up on a shelf, and when your kids are older, and ask about their great-grandparents and what it was like for them, you might let them see what The War was all about.

You should also check out the Veterans' History Project, if you are interested in contributing to the annals of history.

The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
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Description

Creating epic documentaries about war is nothing new for Ken Burns, nor is the subject of the Second World War, which never ceases to be a popular subject of films and TV shows. Yet with The War, Burns has definitely succeeded in breaking new ground, exploring in depth the effect of the war on common Americans, and not just the soldiers of The Greatest Generation that fought it...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Brand: PBS
Manufacturer: PBS
Original Release Date:
Actors:

Features

  • Brand Name: PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE Mfg#: 00017017
  • Shipping Weight: 0.90 lbs
  • Manufacturer:
  • Genre: Television: PBS
  • All music products are properly licensed and guaranteed authentic.

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns doing Ken Burns Work, December 11, 2016
By 
Michael Sebazco (Keller, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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Since the Civil War that really announced Ken Burns as the preeminent documentarian of the historical American experience, his work has offered a well researched and very human perspective of events that are educational and thought provoking. The War is what one would expect from Ken Burns and his team. Wonderful narratives, insightful and experience laden storytelling and a rewarding journey of America's journey from depression to Super Power, The War is a terrific work that is an enjoyable viewing of often heart and gut wrenching subject matter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Saving Private Ryan" for Real Plus More, February 28, 2015
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I have a fascination with World War II, primarily because my father served in Patton's Third Army. He never talked about his experiences (I've learned more about his service from his sister) and he passed many years ago. I probably have watched almost every WWII fictional account (Saving Private Ryan ranks right at the top, as is Patton with George C Scott).

I think Ken Burns is the documentarian for the present time. His pieces are well researched and accurate. He incorporates period photographs with stunning cinematography and personal stories. It is easy to get immersed in his projects.

In my estimation, The War is right at the top of Mr. Burns' accomplishments. Although it has been out for quite a while, I'm glad he did it when he did and recorded the interviews of the participants. These are invaluable. He still uses voice over for those who had already passed on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars has many rare and uncommonly seen photos, letters and declassified film that anyone, not just WWII buffs would enjoy, December 9, 2016
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Ken Burns is one of, if not the best storyteller in recent memory in my opinion. I have seen all his films, and he makes the behind the scene stories so personal, you feel like you know the person and where there yourself, during that time. This particular documentary has many rare and uncommonly seen photos, letters and declassified film that anyone, not just WWII buffs would enjoy. This was our greatest generation and we are losing them every day, so that makes this documentary even more important to tell their stories to today's generation.
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The War (2007) Chris

Summary: I can't help but think how many other stories and accounts have been lost, and putting this 14+ hours on film with this mere fraction of those accounts.... It's a piece that should be put up on a shelf, and when your kids are older, and ask about their great-grandparents and what it was like for them, you might let them see what The War was all about.

4.5


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



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