What went wrong?
David A. Baer | Indianapolis, IN USA | 07/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bill Paxton is the anchor column of this lean HBO film, but the best acting comes courtesy of Donal Logue as the reporter whom Paxon's Lt. Colonel John Paul Vann befriends early on and Ed Lauter as General Weyand. There is some very stiff work from other members of the cast, but the film succeeds on the strength of the drama it portrays.
The story of what went wrong for the US operation in Vietnam is still amenable to two or three widely differing explanations, each of which has deep plausibility. LIE portrays Paxton's character understanding the nationalist nature of the communist insurrection early on when he was posted to Viet Nam as one of the United States' first military advisors there. Gradually, however, he becomes lulled into the failed ambition to solve 'Vietnam's problem' by military means as he rises to the opportunity to become 'America's warrior' over against North Vietnam's brilliant General Giap.
In spite of some contrived work, the realism of the film's subject matter is underscored by the use of some remarkable footage from the era, including tape from the astonishing Tet Offensive in 1968. Although this Viet Cong vie for the cities during the lull of the Vietnam New Year celebration was for them a military failure, it shook whatever American confidence in the enterprise remained at that date and brought high American casualty counts and images of brutal urban warfare into American living rooms.
BRIGHT SHINING LIE is a vital film for those of us who still want to understand the American failure in Vietnam, the origins of the conflict, and how best to assure that future military interventions begin with and are sustained by a comprehension of the facts on the ground and just how malleable they may or may not be."