A Lot Was Left Behind In "Vietnam" Review

A 2015 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, Last Days in Vietnam chronicles the turbulent final moments of the Vietnam War as the North Vietnamese Army rolled towards Saigon in spring of 1975. At that time, the United States had essentially withdrawn from the country, leaving behind only a few diplomats and the bare minimum of a military presence. These remaining Americans knew that any South Vietnamese who were known to have worked with them--including their tailors, launderers and cooks--were in grave danger from the impending invasion. In addition, many of them had wives, mistresses and children who were Vietnamese; they did not want to leave their families behind in any potential evacuation. Torn between their duties as soldiers and doing what was right, a small group decided to do whatever possible to get as many South Vietnamese out of the country before it was too late.

Last Days in Vietnamis a touching and tragic portrait of a country on the verge of collapse, and those few souls who knew that, while they couldn’t stop Vietnam from crumbling, they could at least save some of its people from being buried by the rubble. Produced and directed by Rory Kennedy, the film combines video footage taken of the chaos at that time and modern interviews with those who were involved to convey the horror of having to face this dying war head-on. Scenes of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon being overrun by South Vietnamese who were seeking sanctuary and (hopefully) eventual escape are more terrifying and anxiety-inducing than anything from your average zombie apocalypse film. Whether evacuating civilians by air while Tan Son Nhut Airport was under fire, or loading them onto boats to escape by river, all the while hoping that the North Vietnamese Army wouldn’t hear their engines and begin firing upon them, the stories told by those who were there are truly remarkable; one anecdote involving a family’s escape by Chinook helicopter sounds too incredible to be true, as though it were one of Tom Cruise’s death-defying Mission: Impossible stunts rather than the actions of real people. If there is one thing to take away from Last Days in Vietnam, it is that people are capable of doing absolutely anything--good or bad--when standing face to face with inevitable destruction.


The Blu-ray release of Last Days in Vietnam includes both the Academy Award-nominated theatrical version of the film (100 minutes) and the extended version that aired on PBS as part of its American Experience series (120 minutes).

"American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam" is on sale April 28, 2015 and is rated . Documentary. Directed by Rory Kennedy. Written by Keven McAlester, Mark Bailey.

Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 



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