One of the most reviled wars in American history, in term of involvement, is explored through the eyes of sympathetic humanity toward its last days.
The war in the region known as Vietnam stretched nearly thirty years – and in the Last Days in Vietnam, filmmakers show the chaotic and desperate final weeks before and after the fall of Saigon.
Nearing 1975 the war in Vietnam was supposed to be finished through the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. However, North Vietnam continued the offensive and in doing so, violated the treaty. Slowly descending toward the South Vietnam capital of Saigon, and with US troops withdrawing, the scramble for safety intensified. In the final weeks, American soldiers and diplomats stationed in the area are confronted with a moral predicament: obey direct orders from the Executive Branch to only evacuate US citizens and condemn their Southern Vietnamese allies to an unspeakable end OR ignore orders, risk treason, and save as many lives as they can.
As someone born close to fifteen years after the end of the Vietnam War, the severity and desperation of that time is but a lesson from a history book for me. I am too young to know about Vietnam extensively, and unfortunately the American public education system rarely catches up to near-current history.
The documentary, Last Days in Vietnam, lacks the minute details of a backstory in the opening of the film to catch uninformed viewers up to speed to fully comprehend the complete gravity of the situation during this time. Last Days in Vietnam pretty much wastes no time and jumps right in to the withdrawal of troops and consequential impacts upon the South Vietnamese. From then on it is a fast-paced and suspenseful account of the courageous and hopeless efforts to save civilians while expressing the genuine reverence US soldiers has and have for their allies, who the US government had no direct objective to rescue.
Last Days in Vietnam is heart felt and comprehensive, detailing the accounts of those final days and weeks through video, pictures and first-hand personal narratives. The simultaneous use of real chronicles with video and photography makes for a powerful and engaging experience for the viewer.
Though the film mentions in passing, the harsh reality and ultimate consequence of war, human lives, especially in the face of imminent conquering and defeat – it does not delve deeper. Nor does Last Days in Vietnam review those civilians who were unable to be rescued or had unresolved resentment toward the Americans for abandoning them. Without these key unexamined pieces, Last Days in Vietnam ends up feeling like an American propaganda documentary – informative but one-sided.