Creating epic documentaries about war is nothing new for Ken Burns, nor is the subject of the Second World War, which never ceases to be a popular subject of films and TV shows. Yet with The War
, Burns has definitely succeeded in breaking new ground, exploring in depth the effect of the war on common Americans, and not just the soldiers of The Greatest Generation that fought it. As the narration says at the beginning, "The war affected people in every house, on every street in every town in America." This is nothing less than an attempt to show how the war altered the lives of an entire nation through the portrayal of four individuals from four communities--Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alambama; Luverne, Minnesota; and Sacramento, California--that could represent any town in the country that went through the war. The result is another stunning achievement for Burns and co-director Lynn Novick. Together the filmmaking team succeeds in bringing the war home through the testimonies, letters, and footage of the people from these towns. The storytelling is compelling--Burns and Novick manage to find the most vivid, intimate, and personal dimensions of a global catastrophe--and brought to life with exceptional voice work from marquee stars like Tom Hanks, Alan Arkin, and Samuel L. Jackson. Much of the footage is brilliantly restored; even the most die-hard History Channel buff will see clips here that they've never viewed before. Many old grainy family films look almost as clean and bright as if they were just shot using a modern camera with black-and-white film (keeping in mind that most of the footage was shot without sound, the audio effects work on The War
is particularly impressive and should bring attention to the underappreciated work of the foley artist). It took Burns and Novick six years to make this seven-part, 15-hour film--not surprising, really, considering the miles of footage they must have accumulated in the course of their research--and the time and effort shows in the results. The DVD also includes a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, extensive commentaries, and more, in addition to a companion book, The War: An Intimate History
. --Daniel Vancini
The Emmy® award-winning documentary THE WAR explores the history and horror of World War II from an American perspective by following so-called ordinary men and women who became caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in history. This epic film focuses on the stories of citizens from four American towns taking the viewer through their personal and harrowing journeys, painting vivid portraits of how the war altered their lives.