Vietnam War Movie #12
Synopsis: Philandering boy scout encounters one high-ranking idiot after another as he tries to single-handedly win unpopular war.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “One man’s story through a decade of war, villages taken and lost, lovers taken and lost, the truth corrupted, lives destroyed – and saved. This is the story of a man transformed as brutally as the war transformed two nations.”
What Did I Learn?: Your wife may not share your childlike enthusiasm if you return home and joyously exclaim: “honey, I’m going to Vietnam!”
You Might Like This Movie If: You love bright and shiny things.
Really?: 1) Did the real Vann really slap an ARVN colonel in front of his men? That sounds counter-productive at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. 2) So wait – we learn that Vann banged a 15-year old babysitter a few years earlier, and we’re still supposed to sympathize with him? That’s just creepy.
Rating: A Bright Shining Lie is an interesting companion movie to Go Tell the Spartans and We Were Soldiers, as it deals with America’s involvement in Vietnam from the early 1960s until Vann’s death in 1972. In spite of its low budget (the film was made for HBO), A Bright Shining Lie offers an engaging and watchable look at a troubled-yet-talented warrior. My big complaint would be the film’s mixed political message. While the smart and enlightened characters in this movie (Neil Sheehan and the other reporters, and “Doug Elders”/Daniel Ellsberg) are all against the war, Vann remains very much gung-ho (although highly critical of Westmoreland and Washington’s handling of things), and the viewer is left with a nagging sense that he could have achieved victory in Vietnam if he had his way. Was Vann correct, or was he deluding himself. The film version of Sheehan’s book never really answers those questions. 7/10 stars.