Hearts and Minds (1974)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Hearts and Minds</strong> (1974)

(On Cable TV, December 2018) I probably wouldn’t have seen Hearts and Minds if it hadn’t been for its 2018 inclusion in the American Film Registry and consequent broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. I ended up giving it a shot out of curiosity, and was surprised at its blistering quasi-contemporary criticism of the Vietnam War. It really holds nothing back in its indictment of the American war effort over there, using nearly all available tools at its disposal to make its points. (There is a clear acknowledged line from Hearts and Minds’s director Peter Davis to Michael Moore’s work.) Scenes of intense Vietnamese grief are accompanied by a coolly analytical voiceover from a high American official explaining in racist terms how Vietnamese doesn’t care as much about human life—the hypocrisy and detachment is staggering. Much of the film runs along those lines, giving voice to Vietnam opponents and unearthing some amazing footage of people trying to defend it with shocking admissions. It has aged amazingly well at a time where American interventionism is still an ongoing concern—Hearts and Minds was made close enough to the events it describes to be raw about it, but with enough accumulated evidence to back up its claims that the war was a mistake. It really isn’t aiming for cool analysis, and it’s this obvious anger that makes the documentary feel so relevant today.

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