When Ken Burns puts his name on something it means that tireless research was involved. This effort was put into The War in a way never before seen in documentary film-making. It’s an unimaginable task to summarize the events of World War II but Burns took up the task and produced the definitive series on the effects of the war on the people of the United States. From all angles this is an amazing series which is compelling and moving as each turn of events is examined.
There are several aspects of this documentary that make it successful. As with Ken Burns: Baseball this film seems to fit the formula that Burns has made so successful.
- Interviews: Ken Burns managed to find the people who could tell the stories of World War II in their own words. When those people were not available or had passed away he found their words in letters and journals. The success is not only in the interviews, but in the fact that he got people to talk about very emotional and distressing experiences.
- Footage: Burns found footage from all aspects of the war. From hometowns in the United States to the front lines he managed to show us a large amount of footage that captures the events as they unfolded.
- The Subjects: The film would’ve been very hard to follow without a number of subjects to focus on. In his genius Burns chose to examine the war from the perspective of four cities across the country. He also chose to focus on a handful of soldiers whose experiences spanned many of the things the country was going through as a whole.
- Research: I’ll say it again… RESEARCH!!!! Burns finds out all the facts. Each time he would arrive at a point where I had questions he seemed to answer them as if he was reading my mind. Ken Burns does not make films that gloss over the subject matter. With The War he dives in and makes a clear and impressive film.
I would recommend this film for anyone. Despite being graphic it makes the war a real thing for the people who watch it. We’re coming to a place in time where the memories of war will all be on paper as the generation who lived it fade away. This film brought home some of the horror and also some of the patriotism that this country felt. I hope this film can be used in schools to educate the next generation on the events that changed the way America thought.
Running Time: 840 minutes (7 episodes)