Last Days in Vietnam (2014)

last days in vietnam poster 2014 movie american experience
8.0 Overall Score

Captures a lot of sides of the story

Would have liked to have heard even more of the Vietnamese side

Movie Info

Movie Name: Last Days in Vietnam

Studio: Moxie Firecracker Films

Genre(s): Documentary/War

Release Date(s):  January 14, 2014 (Sundance)/September 5, 2014 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

last days in vietnam map

The North is coming…

The war in Vietnam is collapsing and North Vietnamese are moving into the south with Saigon threatening to fall.  As many leaders of the war deny the concern that the war cannot be won, people stationed in the city begin to realize that it is over, and the South Vietnamese who have helped the Americans in the war effort will pay the price.  Time is running out and Saigon is falling…and the United States and their allies must get out.

Directed by Rory Kennedy, Last Days in Vietnam is a war documentary.  The film premiered at Sundance and aired in a longer version on the program The American Experience on PBS.  The documentary was well received and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

last days in vietnam embassy raided

Left behind

The fall of Saigon happened a little over a year before I was born, but Vietnam hung heavy over childhood.  I knew it was a war and I knew homeless soldiers and “vets” I would see were pretty much always Vietnam vets (I still have a hard time not thinking of “vets” as Vietnam soldiers).  The pictures of the chaos of the fall of Saigon always was rather terrifying…people trapped in a war zone abandoned.

The film has a lot of great images of the events surrounding the fall.  The realization that the war was going poorly was seen a lot earlier by people on the ground and the secret missions to try to get people out (against orders) sound like the plot of a movie more than real life.  Once it was announced, the stories of pushing helicopters into the ocean and the desperate attempts to get helicopters are illustrated greatly.

The film hangs heavy on Graham Martin who initially didn’t want to admit defeat (he lost a child in the war), but then he turned into a hero in the fight to get people out.  His refusal to abandon the embassy while Vietnamese helpers were being airlifted probably saved more lives…but if he had acted sooner, more maybe could have been saved.

last days in vietnam documentary evacuation saigon

The end of the road

The movie does a good job offering a wide spread of events from people in different roles in Vietnam.  The collection of images are both inspiring (the people helping) and sad (the people left behind).  The movie encapsulates it.

While they have the American side of the fall, I would have liked to learn more about the people left behind after being promised a way out.  You get a little insight into what that felt like, but I would have loved to hear more about how they reconciled the withdrawal and broken promises made to them…did they understand why it had to happen how it happened?  It would be hard to get a balanced view of this and the movie does the best it can to provide a balanced telling of the events…time allegedly heals all wounds, but Vietnam was a wound that even time struggled to mend.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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