Civil disobedience, peaceful protest, and freedom of belief and speech are concepts that are commonplace in today's very vocal society. And I feel honored to have been raised in a land where I'm free to express my opinions without fear of retribution. Since the era of Vietnam, in fact, public opposition to political policy has multiplied exponentially--or at least the access to this information has increased significantly due to media outlets. Anytime there is a conflict, war, or military presence--you are bound to hear support, derision and every stance in between. "The Good War" presents a fascinating look, however, at conscientious objectors during the second World War. I, seriously, have never given this subject much thought--it's hard to imagine a more unifying military action than World War II in which patriotism ran rampant in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. And yet, there was still a small proportion of men who took the stance that killing was wrong for any reason.
Told through modern day interviews and stock footage, "The Good War" introduces us to a number of conscientious objectors who share their experiences. Ostracized and belittled, these men found themselves on the wrong side of public opinion for very personal and in-grained beliefs. Assigned to work camps or jailed, there weren't a lot of initial choices for these guys. Oftentimes, they took on assignments to prove their worthiness that were very questionable in nature. In fact, the documentary presents some harrowing images of men who submitted to medical experimentation in the name of service to their country. This is a thought provoking look at a subject I knew little about--but it is interesting to see how this movement helped reform the mental health industry and integrate the prison system. Narrated by Ed Asner, this picture should be appreciated by anyone with even a marginal interest in history.
At about an hour, I'd rate the documentary "The Good War" at a solid four stars. However, this DVD presentation is so much more comprehensive than just the film. If this is a topic that you'd like to explore in depth, there are over two hours of supplemental material. This includes fascinating interviews with a number of influential personages, copious current information about the conscientious objector movement, and lots of DVD-ROM features and links to online resources. It's very impressive, really. As a resource, this becomes an easy five star recommendation. Mind you, the film should be sampled by all--but unless you have a pretty strong interest in the subject, it is unlikely you'll peruse everything included in the supplemental features. A strong and important film that is bolstered by its DVD debut, this gives us an alternate vision of what it means to be a hero. KGHarris, 3/11.