"THE GREEN BERETS"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
John Wayne as COLONEL MIKE KIRBY
David Janssen as GEORGE BECKWORTH
Jim Hutton as SERGEANT PETERSEN
Aldo Ray as MASTER SERGEANT MULDOON
Raymond St. Jacques as SERGEANT DOC MCGEE
Bruce Cabot as COLONEL MORGAN
Jack Soo as COLONEL CAI
George Takei as CAPTAIN NIM
Available on Blu-ray January 5
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: John Wayne & Ray Kellogg
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In response to the negative buzz surrounding the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, conservative movie star John Wayne set out to make a lone hawkish movie about the conflict. In this film, which Wayne co-directed, he stars as Colonel Mike Kirby, a rough and tumble soldier who leads a crack team of Green Berets to South Vietnam to control a base and defend it from the Communist army. Later, Kirby and his team go on a mission to capture a North Vietnamese general.
WHAT I LIKED
I don’t care where your politics lie or what your views are on the conflict in Vietnam, this movie works as one heck of an action piece when it finally gets its wheels up. The film is rather long, clocking in just north of two hours and twenty minutes, so there’s a lot of set-up. But that’s how things were done in the 60s.
The things that make “The Green Berets” work is the stand-bys it uses. The most prominent is its star and director. John Wayne was a national hero in film, epitomizing the American ideal and rugged individual. He was an epic figure in American cinema, whether he was on a horse in the old west of if his boots were on the ground in South Vietnam. John Wayne fans – particularly the fans of his war films – will like this movie for the chance to see him mix it up with heavy artillery.
Yes, this film has a political message, but I respect it for making no bones about it. Today, war films (and particularly films about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) come with a very specific point of view but mask it in faux middle-of-the-roadism. If you disagree with Wayne’s politics on the war, you know where he stands at least. He doesn’t try to hide the direction this film is pointing. And whether you agree with him or not, he makes some interesting points, especially with the scene in the beginning detailing the weaponry of the Communist army and how the conflict from the conservative side was about stopping the spread of Communism rather than racially motivated.
But all politics aside, “The Green Berets” works as a war film from this era. The action sequences are pretty cool, especially those featuring gallons of gasoline exploding into massive fireballs.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Let’s face it, “The Green Berets” is only a few steps from being a propaganda film. There is very little sensitivity for the North Vietnamese, although they are presented as worthy opponents. It’s not a very balanced film, but few films are.
My biggest problem wasn’t the overbearing hawkish message, but rather the look of the film. While the action sequences were awesome, the fact that the movie was filmed in Georgia didn’t lend to its authenticity. The landscape of this movie looked about as much like Vietnam as the church camp I went to in the 1980s.
Also, because it was made in the 60s, which was a vastly different era from the time of the most notable Vietnam films (from the late 70s with “Apocalypse Now” and “The Deer Hunter” to the 80s with “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket”), “The Green Berets” relied on a more archaic approached with sanitized language, relatively bloodless kills and some pretty whimsically bizarre uses of humor.
The only special features on the Blu-ray are the original theatrical trailer and a vinatage featurette about the making of the film.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Vietnam hawks, John Wayne fans and war movie buffs