A cameraman is assigned to a unit of paratroopers on an operation in Vietnam. He is shooting footage for the army film unit and along with an assigned officer LT, is interviewing the soldiers in the unit to create footage for a training film. The unit is on a recce behind enemy lines but when they run into an ambush they find themselves in deep trouble...
Written and directed by Vietnam War veteran Patrick Sheane Duncan, Charlie Mopic is an excellent little war movie. The aim of the film is to present a first person view of the war from the perspective of the average foot soldier. Rather simply using point-of-view shots, Duncan uses a found footage technique presenting the film as though it is the unedited reel of film taken from an army cameraman's camera. Impressively, the production sticks entirely to this premise, never deviating or using flash forwards or flash backs to escape from the format. This documentary style gives the invisible cameraman character a chance to talk to the soldiers and be shown aspects of the war that would not just come up in normal conversation - here the writer's experience clearly comes into the fore as the soldiers demonstrate booby trapping techniques and tactics used against the VC.
The screenplay is a tough proposition but Duncan handles it very well - all of the characters ring true (even if there are a few unavoidable clichés like the gruff Sergeant or the soldier running down the clock) and the dialogue has an incredibly realistic tone to it, the interviews with the characters must clearly be based on real people and offer a fascinating insight into the attitudes of soldiers in the theatre. While most Vietnam films, particularly into the 1980s, took a dull view of the 'unnecessary' sacrifices made by the soldiers or a really patriotic view of their valour - Duncan seems unconcerned with this, he presents the soldiers as simply keen to get their job done and to get home alive, there are no politics and no director mouthpieces in the cast. The Vietnamise are obviously never characterised, although again Duncan never presents them as anything better or worse than the American soldiers and in one particularly powerful scene does humanise an injured VC soldier that the unit encounters. The film is quite slowly paced with no major action scenes, most of the focus being on the interviews with and dialogue between the soldiers, but this makes the combat much more emotive and shocking when it breaks out and the film builds to a gripping and perfect climax, made particularly effective by the strong characterisation.
In keeping with the storyline, the film is shot entirely with a single hand-held camera and the only editing is the turning on and off of the film. The authenticity of the approach is underscored by the use of very long takes during the interviews and dialogue scenes and a couple of moments to remind us we are watching found footage, as the soldiers play with the camera and the film runs out, although Duncan avoids the temptation to add too many gimmicky scenes and since the cameraman character is a professional he avoids the nauseating shaky-cam effects of many similar modern films. The approach does provide some unmissable shots, particularly as the cameraman climbs onto the Heuy helicopter - a cliché of the genre, but never seen from the soldier's point-of-view.
The film deliberately uses little known actors to aide the authenticity, but they are well cast and all look and act like real soldiers.
Charlie Mopic is quite simply one of the very best Vietnam war films. It does not try and make political points about the war, nor does it try and provide entertaining action and adventure - it is instead a dedicated attempt to show the war from the point-of-view of a real foot soldier and it achieves an unmatched level of authenticity in the process, making it all to easy to forget that this is a work of fiction, particularly when this format has become very popular in 21st Century war documentaries. For all fans of serious war movies, this is a must see film and impossible to recommend too strongly.
|Anyone famous in it?||No-one well known|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Patrick Sheane Duncan - a Vietnam veteran who moved into filming, directed a few projects including thriller Live! From Death Row (1992) but mostly worked as a writer, including the script for Little Red Wagon (2012).|
|Any gore or violence ?||Some blood but generally understated.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None.|
|Who is it for?||Very highly recommended to all serious war movie fans.
|Visuals||Academy ration 1.33:1. Colour
Print quality is very strong, although apparently shot on 16mm there is very good detail and colour.
Original aspect ratio is unclear, the 1.33:1 format would seem correct for a found footage project, some scenes do seem to be cropped off at the edges, but this might be deliberate poor framing.
|Audio||English mono - sounds fine.|
|Subtitles||Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norweigan, Icelandic, Dutch|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - PAL|
|Other regions?||Similar print available from Force Video in Australia.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.