The American Film Industry & Vietnam
Lost illusions and gung-ho patriotism have both featured prominently in Hollywood’s reaction to the Vietnam War, but not to date some of the more unpleasant aspects of the conflict.
During most of America's wars the film industry made a positive contribution to the war effort. This was achieved in a variety of ways: explaining the causes of the war, revealing the evil nature of the enemy, the sacrifice of Americans and the importance of the home front. Feature films also created a realistic image of the battlefield for non-combatants, often using actual combat footage for added reality. The industry, then, provided in explanation of America's wars for the public and acted as an unofficial government agency.
In 1917, and again in 1941, there was little need for government intervention in the film industry for its own reflection of consensus opinion would ensure whole-hearted support for national policy. The Korean War was dealt with in much the same terms as the World Wars and if that conflict was ideologically less clearly defined than the late, great, anti-fascist struggle, the House of Representatives Un-American Committee and the Hollywood witch-hunts of the period made dissent impossible. Even if films had been made which questioned American involvement, they would have found little support in the market place; traditional values and belief in the 'American Dream' were still too deeply entrenched.
However, soon after America became involved in Vietnam, new forces began to affect the film industry and prevent it from operating in its usual wartime role – justifying, explaining and encouraging the war effort. It might of course be argued that war films had lost their appeal by the mid-1960s, but even a cursory glance through the 'filmographies' reveals that over fifty major feature films on the subject were made between 1963 and 1973. The action war film was still good business, as long as the war was not Vietnam. This, however, was a lesson that the studios learned only through experience; and which led to the industry developing a variety of oblique strategies for dealing with the conflict in South-East Asia.
In the 1950s, a few action films appeared which dealt with Communist activity in Indo-China. Usually modest B-features like Sam Fuller's China Gate (1957) or James Clavell's Five Gates to Hell (1959), they followed the predictable exploits of American adventurers upsetting the machinations of Communist guerillas or bandit war-lords. Until the mid-1960s, however, South-East Asia provided little more than an exotic location for routine adventure films tinged with Cold War propaganda. But in 1965, the year in which American combat troops were first committed to support the South, the film industry applied itself to producing traditional-format pictures set in this new theatre of war.
Among the first to appear was Will Zens' To the Shores of Hell (1965). This is very much the propagandist action film; the individual soldier's story set against a background of greater events – in this case the landing of the Marines at Da Nang in March 1965. Zens made use of official Army footage supplied by the Department of Defense to boost a weak storyline – the rescue of a civilian doctor from the Communists by his Marine Corps brother. The film is a poorly-made, low-budget feature, but one that is worth noting as it underlines many of the key elements of propaganda cinema. The evil nature of the enemy is revealed – the Viet Cong rape, torture and force anti-Communist peasants to fight for them – and the oppressed are duly grateful for American intervention. Those Americans who oppose the war are dismissed as 'indoctrinated beatniks' by the Marine hero. The overwhelming superiority of American arms is implied throughout the film and leaves the audience with little doubt as to the final victory. The final sequence (the passing out parade of. marines heading for Vietnam) could well serve as an introduction to John Wayne's explicitly pro-war feature made three years later – The Green Beret .
This picture provides a rare opportunity to examine the intentions of a film maker, for we have the testimony of John Wayne's son, Patrick, who was closely involved in its production. Wayne was violently anti-Communist and had frequently demonstrated his patriotism with such projects as The Alamo . He supported America's involvement in Vietnam and visited the country in 1966-67. While there Wayne came to believe that the combat units were the best America had ever fielded. But with a hostile media and sections of American society so critical, they were not receiving the credit they deserved. It was his intention to redress this balance through film. With an improved script, major stars, unlimited finance and the assistance of the Army, which provided an impressive array of military hardware (including the first public demonstration of the C-47 gunship), Wayne was able to mount a superior production. The publicity announced it as Wayne's 'Personal Testament of Honor... A forceful statement on the nature of duty and courage'. But what followed was a simplistic justification of why Americans were fighting in Vietnam.
The story focuses on an anti-war journalist who accompanies Wayne's Special Forces into action. As more and more is revealed about the nature of the enemy, the pacifist is gradually won over. The film establishes and continually reinforces two central ideas: that America is fulfilling treaty obligations to South Vietnam, and that the Communists are attempting to impose a 'reign of terror' on the South. Wayne's men have no doubts as to the righteousness of their cause and it is interesting to compare these articulate and dedicated young soldiers with the psychotic, shambling Special Forces veterans later portrayed by Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver 1973) and Sylvester Stallone (First Blood , 1983). Nevertheless, The Green Beret began the adulation of the Special Forces which continued throughout the period and which appears to have reached a peak with Stallone's super-soldier, Rambo.
On release, the Beret was derided by critics and boycotted by students, although with its simple good versus bad message it was very much the traditional war picture. Yet unlike To the Shores of Hell it does admit that critics of the war were something more than just indoctrinated students. Wayne's view was that they were misguided; unaware of what was really happening in Vietnam and misinformed by a hostile press.
By 1968, it was no longer possible for the film industry to deal with the war in this straightforward and traditional manner. It had become the most divisive event in American history since the Civil War. The Tet Offensive had convinced many that the war could not be won, thus strengthening the anti-war movement which was becoming so widespread it could no longer be ignored. How was the film industry to present the war when the President had to appear on national television to appeal for consensus and when even the Government was divided? Hollywood could not even rely on the relatively non-political 'action' war film, for public feeling was too incensed. Moreover, television, with its live coverage of the battlefield, was usurping the cinema's role of presenting the image of the war to the public.
In some countries, where a national cinema is directly controlled and financed by the state, it can act as an explicit propaganda channel (as in Stalin's Russia or National Socialist Germany), but the American film industry has always relied on private enterprise and is firmly tied to the 'profit motive'. Film makers, conscious of the need for financial success, have always had to play safe and reflect rather than lead public opinion. The difficult years after 1960, when audiences declined and studios closed down, made this even more necessary. A Newsweek survey, published in 1970, revealed that 62 per cent of regular film-goers were aged under thirty-years; precisely the age group that had been or would be going to Vietnam, and the group most active in the peace movement. Understandably, this audience wanted a cinema which was relevant and reflected their own doubts about the war. Between 1968-73 the war in Vietnam was so much a part of American life it could not be ignored, so Hollywood somewhat unhappily began to pander to this new, and anti-establishment audience. It was unnatural, however, for such an inherently conservative industry to be dissident and subsequently most pictures dealing with the war emerge as politically ambiguous.
One device adopted by some directors was to use the endless radio and television coverage of the war as a background for contemporary drama. The Roger Corman/Peter Fonda narrative of doomed youth, Wild Angels (1966) used this technique as did Petulia (1968). But this was merely an acknowledgement of the war and its intrusion into every aspect of American life. A more significant approach was to use the student anti-war movement as subject matter. The political content of these features varied enormously. Alice's Restaurant (1969) poked gentle fun at the draft board and other targets, while Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969) dealt with the political awakening and radicalisation of a young news photographer through the major events of the1960s. The latter highlights some of the problems involved in producing a radical feature within an inherently conservative industry. Paramount Studios, having agreed to let Wexler make the film, apparently disliked the ending – the Chicago riots of 1968 – and raised all manner of petty difficulties during shooting. Only after prolonged argument did they allow the film a limited release.
Students and the anti-war movement were also the focus of The Strawberry Statement, Getting Straight and Summertree , all made in 1970. The most interesting example to date has been the television film Kent State (1981): a documentary-style reconstruction of the events at Kent State University where a peaceful rally against the war resulted in the killing of four students by the National Guard. Medium Cool took a genuinely critical perspective of the war, but most of the features in this style were continuing instalments of the youth film which began to appear in the 1950s with The Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause . Vietnam gave them a topical interest, and there is indeed a superficial anti-war rhetoric, but the central concern of these films is by no means clear and they merely confirm the viewers' preconceptions. The 'youth against the war' feature had little financial or critical success but it remained the only way in which Hollywood was prepared to deal with the war until after the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in 1973.
James Monaco, the distinguished film historian and critic, has claimed that only two films, both documentaries, had any real impact on thinking about the war: Selling the Pentagon (1971) and Hearts and Minds (1972), both of which emphasised that the war was being prolonged for political reasons. There seems little reason to doubt Monaco's claim for with the possible exception of Medium Cool , it is obvious that the ambiguous features made after 1968 could have had little effect on public attitudes and they consequently rated little attention from these responsible for running the war. Cinema here makes an interesting contrast with television, for the latter's attitude to the war was so critical that both Secretary of Defense, Dean Rusk, and one-time Vietnam commander, General Westmoreland, both advocated strict censorship. While the war was in progress, then, the American film industry at first attempted to play its traditional role by supporting government policy. By 1968 this was no longer possible; economic necessity forced the industry to reflect, superficially at least, a dissident position in the features it produced. But even after 1973, the war's legacy of bitterness still created difficulties for film makers and it was not until the late 1970s that they would face the war head on. Instead the industry began to produce a type of feature full of anti-war sentiments, but glorifying the individual soldier – the 'veteran' picture.
The difficulties of readjustment from combat to civilian life had already been explored after the Second World War – William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Stanley Kramer's The Men (1950) had both won considerable critical acclaim. But this type of film became a staple product for the industry when dealing with the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s. In the veteran film revenge usually provides the motive for the drama; yet only one, Good Guys Wear Black (1977), deals with revenge for something which has happened in Vietnam. The leader of a Special Forces group seeks revenge on those responsible for the betrayal and death of his unit. A complex tale of plot and counter-plot, it is more a vehicle for the martial arts champion, Chuck Norris, than a serious comment on the war. Nevertheless, there is some anti-war rhetoric inserted for good measure. In other films of this type, the hero is usually motivated by revenge for crimes committed against loved ones while he was in combat. Gordon, the black hero of Gordon's War (1973), seeks justice for his murdered wife, as does Major Charles Rane, the highly decorated soldier in Rolling Thunder (1977).
Inevitably, all these features end with a violent and bloody confrontation in which the veteran emerges victorious. There is a deep ambiguity present in all these films, and one could be tempted to read into them such lessons as, only direct action solves problems, the answer to violence is superior force, and so on. All of these might be taken as criticisms of government policy in Vietnam. At the same time there is always present in the dialogue numerous anti-war statements. Hollywood posed a simplistic relationship between the war and crime – the brutality and slaughter of Vietnam and the senseless violence of street crime in home-front America. In cinematic terms the relationship is demonstrated by flashbacks to the hero's experiences in South-East Asia. This type of feature enabled film makers to deal with the war in a critical manner and at the same time exploit the highly successful 'vigilante" sub-genre established by such films as Death Wish (1974).
Perhaps the most successful film in this category is Taxi Driver (1976). The driver, Special Forces veteran Travis Bickle, becomes obsessed with the blatant corruption of New York and finally wages a one-man war against the vice-peddlers. The feature ends with the psychotic Bickle a hero for he has saved the child prostitute. The critical success of Taxi Driver inevitably drew many imitations; cheaply-made, burdened with gratuitous violence, they have little artistic or social interest. Only Sylvester Stallone's First Blood (1982) offers an interesting variation of the theme. John Rambo (Stallone), a highly-decorated veteran, is harrassed and beaten by a small-town sheriff. These experiences remind him of his imprisonment and torture by the Communists and he reacts violently – in the manner in which he has been conditioned by the military.
Here we are confronted most forcefully by the ambiguities of the veteran feature. The film condemns the army for creating a killing machine like Rambo but continually places him in situations where the audience are expected to admire his fighting skills. Significantly, the David Morrell novel, upon which the film was based, has Rambo shot down at the end like the mad dog he has become. The film reflects the changing attitude to the war in America, however, for at the end Rambo surrenders, confessing his anger is really directed at those who prevented the 'total war' tactics in Vietnam for which he had been trained and which could have won the war. True to Hollywood's desire to back a winner, Rambo has since reappeared in Rambo – First Blood Two (1984) as America's avenging angel – returning to Vietnam to release prisoners still held by the Communists. It is the veteran film which helps to focus attention on the ambiguities of the American cinema's attitude to Vietnam. All these features contain some vague condemnation of the war but all extoll the abilities of the Special Forces; elevating them to the status of 'super soldiers'. This adulation began with The Green Beret but has since been taken to extremes with Rolling Thunder – and First Blood . Implicit in all these features is the notion that the American fighting man (and especially the Green Berets) is equal to any situation, hence if America lost the war it must be attributed to other, more sinister reasons. Indeed, First Blood Two does hint at the 'stab in the back' theory from various sections of American society.
Despite the features so far discussed, there were a few more serious attempts to explore the effects of war on individuals. Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (1972) and The Ninth Configuration (1979) both examined ex-soldiers suffering from delayed combat fatigue. This type of film, first appearing in the early 1970s, drew attention to a serious condition before it was generally recognised, for only recently has research indicated the long-term effects on Vietnam combatants. In 1981 the first comprehensive study was published. This revealed that 24 per cent of combat veterans were later arrested for criminal offences; that reactions (now labelled 'Post- Traumatic Stress Disorders') could still appear even ten years after combat. In the case of Vietnam, adjustment problems were exaggerated by the divisive mood of the nation while the war was in progress. The report claimed that over 60 per cent of veterans studied either opposed the war at the time or did not understand why they were fighting. Returning home, the veteran was often castigated for going, called a 'murderer' and, in some perverse way, held responsible for America's defeat. In cinematic terms, the veteran who cleans up the streets, rescues the child prostitute or executes a vicious killer when the police are unable to act, is regaining the respect of the community and proving that he can be a 'winner' after all.
Among the mass of action films featuring veterans were a few serious attempts to deal with the problems of soldiers physically disabled by the war. Just a Little Inconvenience (1977) and Coming Home (1978) not only examine serious issues but are almost the only uncompromising anti-war features to emerge from Hollywood. The latter won wide critical praise and several Oscars and was the particular project of actress Jane Fonda, a militant critic of American policy. Despite her attempts with documentary film, Fonda had to wait until 1978 before she could produce a major feature film which took a truly critical perspective of the war.
Coming Home provides another rare opportunity to examine the motives of the film maker. Fonda had been a leading figure in the anti-war movement since her visit to Hanoi in 1972. There she had broadcast anti-war statements and made her opposition to the war public. This led to harrassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the condemnation of American hawks. Even five years after the war ended, her proven box-office appeal was not enough to secure backing from a major studio for Coming Home . Only by starting her own production company, IPC, was she able to complete the project. Haskell Wexler was hired as photographer and Hal Ashby to direct; both noted for their radical politics. Ashby, despite his own convictions, persuaded the writers to leave out much of the anti-war rhetoric of the original script, thus making it more commercially viable. Coming Home operates at two distinct levels; commercially as an unorthodox love story and politically as a condemnation of American policy. It is this duality which no doubt accounted for much of the film's popularity. The three central characters, Sally (Fonda), her husband Hob (Bruce Dern) and lover Luke (John Voight), are all in some ways victims of the war. Sally has to choose between her psychologically damaged husband or her physically disabled lover. In the process Sally herself changes, becoming politically conscious and sexually liberated. The film won Oscars for both Fonda and Voight but missed the Best Picture award which went to Deer Hunter ; another film which took the war as its central theme but which viewed it from a much less radical perspective.
1977-78 saw a major revival of interest in the war by the film industry. Perhaps sufficient time had elapsed for some of the bitterness to fade; perhaps it was the news that Francis Ford Coppola, wonder-boy of the new Hollywood, was producing a multi-million dollar epic about the war? But for whatever reason, the studios began to show interest and to view the war in a more direct way. The first real Vietnam combat film since 1968 was Sidney Furie's The Boys in Company C (1977). The feature uses the familiar theme of following a group of draftees through boot camp and into combat. Set in1967, it has many of the stock characters associated with Second World War features – the tough, cynical sergeant, the would-be comic, even the aspiring novelist who acts as narrator for the story. That, however, is as far as the similarity goes. Unlike their fathers, Furie's soldiers are opportunists, cowards, drug- peddlers or psychotics. Some do manage to develop saving graces under combat conditions but most remain the unpleasant characters they have always been. The war has only enlarged the scope for their criminal behaviour. Second World War films almost always portrayed officers who cared for their men and rankers who returned that loyalty. Not so Company C, who cannot wait to see their cowardly and self-seeking captain terminated and await only the right opportunity to kill him. The Vietnamese, both Northern and Southern, are villainous, and the American generals callous, corrupt and incompetent. At the end of the feature, under the pressure of a Viet Cong attack, Company C begin to fight back; but only for selfish motives for their football match has been interrupted. Unlike the soldiers of earlier wars, Company C have no cause to fight for, no belief in a just war. They are in Vietnam because they have been ordered there, the war is meaningless, only its effects are real. Company C reflects the attitudes of those thousands of US Servicemen who neither supported the war nor understood why they were fighting.
1978 saw the release of the Ted Post/Burt Lancaster production Go Tell The Spartans . Set in 1964, 'When the war was a little one', the film relates the experiences and eventual annihilation of a military advisory group led by a cynical professional soldier. Among the group are familiar characters: the gung-ho captain, 'We can't lose, we're Americans'; the burnt-out sergeant, and the idealistic volunteer. The experiences of the French in Vietnam a decade earlier are paralleled and the film finishes with a clear statement that Vietnam is a war in which Americans should never have become involved. An unambiguously critical film, it was the last feature of the 1970s to reflect a real anti-war perspective.
The two epics produced at the end of the decade both dealt with the war in evasive but different ways. Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) looks at second-generation Americans caught up in a conflict which has little meaning for them. The two central characters experience the total brutality of being Viet Cong captives. And while one is destroyed by his experiences, the other transcends them, is perhaps even strengthened by them. The war, shown as the film's central incident, is a discontinuity in American life. Wasteful and brutal it is, but it is only a moment in a long history. America will survive as Michael, the central character, has survived. If the war is condemned other than for its brutality, it is for its corrupting influence on Americans. Christopher, Michael's brother, is destroyed, not in battle, but by his own hand in the corrupt nightmare of Saigon's last days. The film received a mixed critical reception. Some liberals praised its anti-war stand and its honesty, while others like Jane Fonda, criticised its pro-war sentiments. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that its final sequence is a reassertion of faith in America. Cimino has made no public statements as to his motivation for producing the film, but it may well be significant that his other major work was Heaven's Gate (1980) which examine and upheld many traditional American values. When the Deer Hunter was shown as the official American entry at the 1979 Berlin Film Festival, the Soviet Bloc withdrew in protest at what they described as an 'affront to the struggle of the Vietnamese. people'.
Apocalypse Now (1979) was intended by its director, Francis Coppola, to be the definitive Vietnam feature. Certainly its cost was enormous and it did take over three years to complete. As cinema, Apocalypse is a magnificent spectacle: as a statement about the war it is full of ambiguity, dishonesty and cliché. A professional soldier, Willard (Martin Sheen), is sent to execute Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once brilliant officer who has turned renegade and, is now leading his own army of the Montagnard tribesmen. Willard and his companions set out to find Kurtz and it is through their experiences that Coppola presents his images of the war. Overriding all else is the sound of the helicopter gun-ships; and these provide the most memorable image of all – Colonel Kilgore's attack on the Viet Cong village, Wagner blaring from their external speakers. Kilgore is the very soul of psychotic militarism – a modern-day Custer heading for his own massacre. The remaining sequences are a strange mixture of originality and cliché, a Playboy show in a jungle clearing, the masscred innocents and so on. At Kurtz's camp nightmare reigns supreme, bodies lie everywhere and madness pervades the camp. Having so far gloried in his condemnation of the war, the director now introduces us to Kurtz and this adds a new dimension. Kurtz knows the Communists will win because they are more ruthless – only utter terror can achieve victory. Because Kurtz adopted their tactics he was judged to have gone beyond the limits defined by the US Army and must be terminated. Coppola seems here to be regretting that America, having committed itself to the war, lacked the necessary ruthlessness to win (Rambo in First Blood will later express the same sentiment). Kurtz is killed in a scene so clichéd it is almost reduced to comedy, but which sees him as a victim because he will not play war 'games'. Coppola referred to this film as an 'entertainment', and certainly it is a fine spectacle. But what does it say about the war? Is Coppola condemning the war, or is it that he felt America should have had the courage to commit itself to a 'total war? The director's war is almost mythical – exaggerated, dream-like and peopled by grotesques. It would seem that in using this approach Coppola destroys almost any moral position he has attempted to establish. It should also be noted that the screenwriter here was John Milius, who has recently written and directed the intensely patriotic and right-wing adventure Red Dawn (1983).
Both The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now were more defensive about the war than most features since The Green Beret . Both are indicative of the end of the liberal seventies and the subsequent right-wing Reagan Administration – representing a more patriotic and aggressive mood in America. When Hell Was in Session (1979) is another feature which reflects this changing climate. It deals with the real experience of Commander Jerry Denton of the US Navy while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Denton was held for over seven years in conditions of great hardship. However, the really significant aspect here is the emphasis on the eventual triumph of the American prisoners over their captors. No matter what physical or psychological torture they undergo, the prisoners remain unbroken. When released and flown home Denton addresses the welcoming crowds with the words, 'We are proud to have been serving our country under different circumstances, God Bless America'. It is indeed a strangely patriotic film and interestingly the feature acknowledges the assistance of the Departments of the Navy and Defense in its making: a credit not seen on a Vietnam War film since 1968. It may also be relevant here that Rumours of War , a film version of Philip Caputo's highly critical book, was completed in1981 but has still not been released. One is tempted to speculate that it may well be too critical of American policy for the present mood in America.
Even television films, which for ten years had taken a critical view of the war, began using a positive perspective. Friendly Fire (1979) investigated the events surrounding the death of a young marine by 'friendly fire'. Despite the initial suspicion in the minds of the boy's family that there had been a 'cover up', the Army are eventually cleared of any guilt. Fly Away Home (1981), set in 1968, deals with the events of that year seen through the eyes of various participants – the idealistic Navy pilot, the young draftee, even a Vietnamese family. Written by Stirling Silliphant, a normally outspoken critic of Hollywood's lack of political conscience, the film's main concern is to show Americans as naive idealists caught up in the web of corruption that was South Vietnam. It would seem that it is becoming a major argument to suggest that American involvement was due to idealistic naivety rather than any more sinister motives.
The American film industry, then, can hardly be accused of ignoring the Vietnam War. But what it has ignored are some of the more unpleasant aspects of that conflict. No film has yet presented any real justification for Americans going to South-East Asia other than in the most vague terms such as to combat 'Communist aggression' or to fulfil 'treaty obligations'. No American feature has dealt with the end of the war, the withdrawal of American troops in 1973 or the subsequent fall of Saigon in 1975. It appears that Americans have yet to come to terms with defeat and it seems fashionable to soften the truth with phrases like 'the war that nobody won'. So too, by emphasising the corruption of the South, films appear to be suggesting that America withdrew because she could no longer support an unworthy ally. All of which diverts attention from the harsh reality – that America suffered a costly military defeat.
Other aspects of the war have also been ignored in the cinema's view of events. There has been no mention of the de-foliation programmes or reference to other chemical weapons; nor of the massive bombing campaigns against North Vietnam or Laos. The features invariably include a few token black soldiers in the cast, but one feature of the real war was the extremely high proportion of black Americans assigned to combat duty. Where are they in the industry's simulation of reality?
Since the beginning of the present decade, then, mainstream Hollywood has begun to reflect the growing conservatism of American politics. As far as the Vietnam War is concerned, this has meant feature films which are more openly defensive about American involvement. The most recent features have dealt with commando raids into present-day Vietnam to release prisoners-of-war still held by the communists. Uncommon Valor (1983), Missing in Action (1984) and the phenomenally successful Rambo have all shown that the communists can be beaten and have attempted to restore military self- respect. Rambo, interestingly, was endorsed by President Reagan who, only half-jokingly, advocated Rambo-style action to release hostages. The sociologist Norman Chinchilla has suggested that Rambo is a revenge object, not only against the Vietnamese, but on an American government which denied victory to American arms. The film industry's interpretations of the Vietnam experience have had little impact on public thinking about the war, but what the cinema has done has been to reflect, albeit sometimes dishonestly, America's changing attitudes to that conflict. Now, under the present administration, Hollywood's political perspective has turned full circle and is now, once again, the voice of patriotism.
Nevertheless, the past year has seen considerable interest in the War. Oliver Stone's highly successful Platoon will be followed by Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket , Francis Coppola's Gardens of Stone and John Irvin's Hamburger Hill . All of these promise a more honest portrayal of the Vietnam experience.