Published on February 10th, 2011 | by Chris0
A Bright Shining Lie (1998)
A Bright Shining Lie is based on the true story and biography of John Paul Vann(played by Bill Paxton), who started out as a Lt. Col. and military advisor in the early days of the Vietnam War (c. 1962-3) and went on to return as a high-ranking civilian advisor until his death in 1972.
I wasn't sure what exactly to expect from this movie. Would it be another preachy anti-Vietnam movie? Would it be an all out combat movie? No. No on both counts. It's actually a damned interesting story, and one which pretty much lays out why Vietnam was a mistake from the beginning.
It also leaves you with some pretty conflicting feelings about Vann as a person. On the one hand he seems to start off with the best of intentions, and has really solid ideas on how to get things done. Of course brass won't have any of it, and he's essentially drummed out of the military early on. His personal life, however is a complete mess, as his incurable cheating ways lead to his divorce back home.
When he returns in the civilian aid program, he again tries his hardest to do some good, but tries too hard, making enemies and inadvertently causing the destructino of the village he's working in.
He manages to predict the Tet Offensive in 1968, and partly due to that, he gets back into the graces of the military and consulate, and becomes a civilian general (not sure how that works) in an advisory role, basically dictating strategy and tactics throughout the region.
The final battle at Kontum, all the pieces which have been building throughout come together, as the ARVN general he crossed as an aid worker completely doublecrosses him at Kontum. The resulting "rolling thunder" B-52 action is quite impressive. Shortly thereafter he's killed in a weather-related helicopter crash.
One thing that bugs me, is the ending. He's finally portrayed simultaneously as a hero, and as a man who's sold out, and enjoying the power he appears to have grabbed. I haven't read the book, so I can't say how it plays out there.
If nothing else, it is definitely an interesting and engaging two hours of film, and an excellent story. When its done you should come away with a better understanding of what the war was about at a higher level. Not that it really makes sense, but a better understanding the same.
Production-wise I'd give it high marks all around. Despite the lack of a 5.1 sound and the 4:3 aspect, it still managed to deliver some excellent battle scenes, and the locations and sets are all top-notch. The B-52 scene near the end is simply amazing, I'd think that its a pretty accurate take on what that must have been like (not that I have any clue!)....
Here's the Battle of Kontum scene. You can see a bit of what I'm talking about when they portray him as a hero here, but if you watch the entire movie, its a bit uncomfortable.... Still, a solid 7 from this reviewer.
A Bright Shining Lie
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Based on Neil Sheehan's controversial book about the making of the Vietnam war, this HBO production is told from the perspective of Lt. Colonel John Paul Vann (Bill Paxton), one of the original military advisers sent in 1962 to prop up the fledgling South Vietnamese army against the Viet Cong...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: HBO HOME VIDEO
Manufacturer: HBO Studios
Original Release Date:
- Bill Paxton
- Amy Madigan
- Eric Bogosian
- Donal Logue
- Vivian Wu
- Actors: Bill Paxton, Amy Madigan, Vivian Wu, Donal Logue, Eric Bogosian
- Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD, NTSC
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
- Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only).
- Rated: R. Run Time: 118 minutes.
Summary: When its done you should come away with a better understanding of what the war was about at a higher level. Not that it really makes sense, but a better understanding the same.