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Winter Soldier (Sous-titres français) [Import]


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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thus it should come as little surprise that while the events described in Winter Soldier took place during the Vietnam conflict, the 2006 home video release of this 1972 documentary more or less coincides with recent, eerily similar revelations regarding the activities of U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq, including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the alleged slaughter of civilians in the town of Haditha. The film centers on a day in January, 1971, when more than 100 former soldiers turned up at a motel in Detroit to give testimony as part of an investigation sponsored by a group calling itself Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Their stories are genuinely chilling, as they matter-of-factly describe civilians being thrown from helicopters, villages burned, children shot, women raped, and innocent people tortured, maimed (cutting off their ears was popular), or even skinned; the notorious My Lai massacre of 1968 was apparently more the rule than the exception. Some eighteen documentary filmmakers took part in the making of this production, including Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A.) and Robert Fiore (Pumping Iron). But there is no great artistry on display here--the film is mostly a succession of talking heads, appearing in grainy black & white (there are also a few photographs and occasional color film footage shot in Vietnam) and recounting how they were brainwashed into believing that the atrocities in which they participated were "in the best interests of our nation," as one puts it, especially since "it wasn't like (the Vietnamese) were human." Unlike Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig, Winter Soldier gives us nothing from the other side--the opposition to the opposition, if you will. All we have are the vets' terrible (and highly credible) tales of how officers who witnessed or took part in these horrors wrote them off as Standard Operating Procedure. Strong stuff, but the film starts to become repetitive and ultimately tedious after it passes the one hour mark. The abundance of bonus features, including a current interview with the filmmakers and three shorter films addressing the same theme as the main feature, will be of interest mainly to gluttons for punishment. --Sam Graham

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Necessary June 7 2006
By Griff Heartfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Everybody over the age of 12 and under the age of 30 needs to see this film. (Wouldn't hurt older people either: pull your kid's ipod away and make them watch this...)

Someone said: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Well, this is the history we forgot, and are now repeating. What is worse, having our young people offered up as cannon-fodder for hailburton, or turning them into murderers and torturers at Haditha, Abu Grahib and how many other places? This film illustrates how it all happened before just as it's happening now.

I disagree with the Amazon reviewer who finds the film artless and boring after an hour. It's a differenet aesthetic, not trying to zap you or entertain, but build a slow cumulation of facts. It does get more and more depressing but that's the point. And the best part of the film is the last section, which focuses on Scott Camil, and delivers a small message of hope: this man has re-evaluated his humanity, and has changed for the better. (BTW, Camil is the infamous VVAW 'terrorist' John Kerry failed to turn in for supposedly proposing to bomb something or other in some meeting -- interesting to look at the real person here...) The point is that as individuals and perhaps as a nation, even though we may have done horrible things, we can find a redemption by coming clean, coming correct, and witnessing for peace and justice.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The Cost of War June 7 2006
By J. Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
War is always ugly. It seems to me that ever since Vietnam, we have been searching for some way to redeem ourselves from the stench of My Lai and free fire zones; searching for another WWII, another "good war" . But war is never good and what is required of troops in war must be looked at in terms of more than winning and losing, but with a keen sense of cost. At what cost do we send men, and now women, into battle. Winter Soldiers requires us to scrutinize that cost and not turn away from the agony our troops endure.

125 soldiers testified at the Winter Soldier hearings. Their stories of rape and torture and random killing so terrified the Nixon Whitehouse that a "plumbers" type group was set up to discredit them. The only piece of information to come from that thorough investigation was the fact that Al Hubbard was an enlisted man and not an officer. No, he didn't say he had served in Vietnam, in fact he didn't testify at the Winter Soldier hearing at all. A 30+ year orchestrated disinformation campaign has managed to turn one miniscule fib into a complete slander of 125 honorable veterans.

Winter Soldier isn't about valor or lack of valor. It is about war and what happens in war. It should be required viewing for each and every Congress Member, each and every time they vote from the comfort of their chambers to send young people into the depths of hell. It should be required viewing by every American before we spend one more penny on Iraq or even consider another mission unaccomplished in Iran. War is a failure of civilization, not the means by which we expand it.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Testimonials such as Winter Soldier Deserve the Light of Day June 8 2006
By karendc - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
We watched a double feature of Winter Soldier and Sir, No Sir (the recent documentary about the protest movement within the Vietnam War troops) a few weeks ago. The telling of stories that are true and heart-breaking is still with me. I know we will be hearing similar stories from the Iraq War, and we will be devastated because we KNEW. We KNEW from experience what war brings to young men and women, and we went ahead anyway.

At the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington one can talk with the veterans of that war. Whether or not they were a part of the protest movement, or were supporters of that war, the effects of the rape of a country are with them still.

We will have many more ravaged souls after the current conflict ends.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Overwhelming Dec 6 2006
By tor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this movie on TV the day before Thanksgiving and just couldn't beleive it, it may be the most important documentary ever made. The very first veteran interviewed talks about how it was fairly common practice for vietnamese POWs to be thrown from airborne aircraft and everything just spirals downward from there. The movie shows normal everyday americans talking about some of the most horrible things imaginable. Veterans often laugh and chuckle while recounting these things and then you see their faces going from amusement to guilt and shame in the blink of an eye. This literally shows how war is hell and I think should be required viewing in all high schools.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Dark Underside of War June 22 2006
By J. Lorentzsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Being a retired Air Force Officer and in the military when this film was made, it brought back many sad and disturbing memories. I know the truth of this as although not on the ground in Viet Nam I listened to enough first-hand accounts. This is what happens in every war. It is especially common in wars such as Viet Nam and Iraq where the "enemy" does not wear uniforms and blends into the population. Put 18, 19 and 20 year old soldiers in the mix of terror and chaos and even some of the best breakdown. Where leadership is absent disaster happens. Bush and his staff who never came close to this scene should watch this film. War should always be the very last resort. So very unfortunate that this film has been seen by so few.


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