Looking for an overview of the American Revolution akin to Ken Burns's The Civil War? Look no further! Liberty! The American Revolution successfully takes a unique, detailed peek into the 25 years of events that led to the... more » establishment of the United States of America. The British are not painted as rigid "bad guys," nor the colonists as the rebellious "good guys." Instead, it correlates the complicated struggle between Britain and the American colonies to a stern mother and her teenage child longing for independence. Beginning after the French and Indian War (1763), Liberty! kicks off with the issue of taxation, the colonies' revolt, a declaration of independence, war with the British, eventual victory, and the establishment of a country and constitution unlike any in the history of mankind. The men and women involved are portrayed by actors and actresses reciting original documents, letters, and articles from the times. Well-edited, these soliloquies create an interesting feeling of conversation and continuity, almost as though you are getting a firsthand account of the events as they unravel. Though there are good battle descriptions (particularly Gen. Washington crossing the Delaware, Gen. Burgoyne at Saratoga, and Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown), the emphasis of Liberty! is on policy, events leading to war, deteriorating relationships, and ongoing governing challenges rather then actual military strategy. Nonetheless, this documentary is as exciting and interesting as any historical movie you will likely see, and a lot more accurate. --Rob Bracco« less
"Perhaps better than any other filmed expedition into the Revolutionary past, LIBERTY! explains the WHY of the American uprising. Others have faulted it for being militarily incomplete, but this is its principle strength, in my view. Far too often, history is comprised of the accounts of battles. Here, though, the producers chose to focus on the dream of liberty more than its attainment. To be sure, important battles get their due, but the emphasis here is on a war won more through propaganda and promises than by musket and steel. The producers are out to tell a story as much as the truth, and so know they have to start at the beginning. Many accounts of the times seem to skip glibly over the predominant happiness with British rule that most colonists felt, but not LIBERTY! Instead, it goes to great lengths to put viewers back in colonial America, so they can understand how improbable it was that the people of the time would've imagined themselves divorced from England. Unlike many accounts, LIBERTY! Is unafraid to take the opposing British viewpoint, and to include British historians. This documentary, indeed, sees the arguments from all sides, and shows just how reluctance turned to resolve. More to the point, it shows both sides as equally hotheaded and responsible for the war.Indeed, the commitment to explain the conflict in human terms is so prevalent in this work, that actors hired to play various key figures propel the basic storyline as much as the narrator. Best of all, every word these actors speak comes from a documented primary source. Choosing to have the figures themselves partially tell the story adds great personal interest while moving the drama of the larger conflict swiftly along. Particularly noteworthy is the emphasis on the John and Abagail Adams relationship, which was fortunately well documented by their own letter writing. Their correspondence is one of the great diaries of the time, and lends much to an understanding of the decisions made. The great thing about including such a complete primary source in a history is that viewers get a real sense of what it was like to be unsure that the Revolution would succeed, or what shape the new nation would take.In fact, it is precisely the decision to look at the events as a rocky rebellion rather than a revered revloution which makes LIBERTY! the pre-eminent documentary on the subject."
Mostly Good, Minus Some Important Details
Craig Wieber | Milwaukee, Wisconsin | 05/16/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Liberty was a well done documentary on the Revolutionary War. It goes into heavy detail on many aspects that led to the outbreak of war and focuses well on the actions of early revolutionaries like Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, it falls short of its account of the battles of the war. The documentary all but ignores the Battle of Saratoga, an instrutmental battle that turned the course of the war. This battle is what led the French to get involved in the war, another aspect that is almost completely ignored. The film does go into great detail on specific campaigns and battles, like Yorktown, but does so at the expense at other important stories. Benedict Arnold is ignored except for about a ten minute segment simply stating that he was a traitor and failed in turning West Point over to the British. I would recommend another documentary, the A&E and History Channel's American Revolution. It provides a much better view of the entire conflict."
A PBS television series masterpiece.
Craig Wieber | 03/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent masterpiece documentary series on the American Revolution. It provides a vivid potrait of American life through the American revoultion. It is full of wonderful commentaries from people of the time, and contains nice imagery and music. It also accurately documents the fighting and planning of the war itself, and explains the causes of the war. It is a grat documentary series, that is guranteed to please all that study American history."
A great history lesson
Kellyannl | Bronx, NY USA | 11/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have found this amazing documentary miniseries to be essential pre-July 4 viewing every year. Yes, you may feel your favorite battle or historical figure have been given short shrift - but this is the price paid for keeping the story from being bogged down and uneven, and almost every aspect of the revolution is covered to some extent.The actors giving readings of actual letters written by their characters could hardly have been better - you really feel like you're in the trenches with them. Everyone from generals down to footsoldiers have something to say to us, and we learn about the war from those fighting the war on the battlefields and in Independence Hall.This is, above all, an eye-opener for those who think the Patriots were all saints and the British all devils. Those on both sides were all just mere mortals, some committing unspeakable atrocities and others trying to do what they thought was right for their countries at a time when it wasn't clear who was guilty of treason. If you're at all interested in the revolution, this one is not to be missed."
Excellent video "context" of the Revolution...
Thomas Moody | STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS United States | 02/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A wonderfully acted and directed "period" piece that brings the Revolution and the Revolutionary times to your VCR. Like many of the previous reviewers, I initially was a tad disappointed at some of the short coverage of some of the major events (the Southern theatre, for example...), but soon realized that the main objective of this work is to portray the people (warts and all) behind the push for Independance, and not necessarily view this as a documentary. The "people" aspect here is lively and informative and succeeds overwhelmingly with bringing the feeling of the War and the period to life. Not only are the legendary central figures portrayed (Philip Bosco is extraordinary as Benjamin Franklin...), but the everyday person along with the lowest level soldiers (Philip Hoffman as Joseph Plumb Martin is wonderful...) get presented...each with his/her own unique reading that fully covers the emotion and frustration of this time. For the historians, we get excellent accounts of John Burgoyne's march to defeat at Saratoga, the diplomacy activities of Franklin and others in bringing the French in as allies, the view from England's monarchy and Parliament and the final major battle at Yorktown...all wonderfully acted and plausibly portrayed. If this video set is coupled with the companion book, one gets an excellent and refreshing account of the Revolution which should be counted as required viewing/reading for all Revolutionary War fans. Highly recommended."