The Green Berets Blu-ray offers decent video and audio, but overall it's a mediocre Blu-ray release
Story centers around the operations of a Special Forces Unit in Vietnam, their colonel, and a
reporter who covers the action.
For more about The Green Berets and the The Green Berets Blu-ray release, see the The Green Berets Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 4, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
There's a reason cinefiles neglect to mention The Green Berets in the same breath as Apocalypse Now and Platoon. While star and director John Wayne's 1968 tribute to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam was a noble, well-intentioned counterpoint to surging domestic opposition to the war, its unwavering defense of U.S. involvement in the conflict is painfully transparent and heavy-handed. Rather than offer a measured examination of the men giving their lives to a cause that wasn't their own, Wayne drapes his film in rosy political commentary and broad justifications, reducing it to a decidedly naive propaganda piece. A harsh charge perhaps, one born of historical hindsight, but an accurate assessment of the stilted, swaggering, WWII-tinted ode to war that is The Green Berets. It's certainly not without its charms -- Wayne drawls his way from field to forest with confidence while his young castmates create a few endearing characters -- but it lacks subtlety, nuance and, above all else, relevance. Antiquated and miscalculated, it offers modern filmfans little more than a rosy glimpse into the losing side of a long-settled debate.
Philosophies collide, albeit to dull, predictable ends...
The Green Berets doesn't open abroad, but in North Carolina as a group of smarmy journalists are given the opportunity to question a team of military officers about the war in Vietnam. The reporters are stubborn, sheepish children, none more so than George Beckworth (David Janssen), a cocky, self-assured skeptic Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) invites to investigate the war firsthand. Beckworth does just that, following Kirby and a hand-selected platoon of soldiers to Southeast Asia. (If visions of Generation Kill begin dancing in your head, quash them before the film does it for you.) Bouncing between light-footed character comedy and drum-beating nighttime raids, Kirby's men join forces with several South Vietnamese ARVN soldiers (among them Jack Soo and Star Trek's George Takei) to provide humanitarian relief to civilians, fend off advancing troops, and kidnap a high-ranking enemy commander. Before you can say pantomimed knife-fight, Kirby and his men are faced with a number of obstacles, shedding their own blood in the battlefields of Vietnam to overcome each one, and Beckworth has an inevitable change of heart that forces him to question everything he's come to believe about the war.
Had Wayne allowed the actions and honor of his characters to speak for themselves, The Green Berets might have been a tonal precursor to We Were Soldiers. Instead, he pounds his sermon into the ground ad nauseum, making it as indigestible as the two-dimensional factoids that over-season James Lee Barrett's preachy script. It begins with a lengthy scene in which the media is taken to task by a sharp-tongued soldier. Laying out a cut-and-dry defense of an entire war on-screen is no easy task; doing it with quotable, neatly packaged bullet points is a feat unto itself. Yet Wayne and Barrett do just that, leaving one to wonder why the credits aren't rolling after ten minutes. But it doesn't end there. Scene after scene meanders by, often to nearly offensive, wince-inducing effect -- I'd touch on the film's portrayal of the Vietnamese people and the latent messages therein, but for the sake of brevity let's chalk it up to the common stereotypes of the era and move on -- as Wayne uses every line, shot, and conversation to drive his point home. I can look past the period performances, past the actors' howdy-ma'am deliveries, even past the stocky action choreography, but Kirby and his compatriots rarely speak to each other, continually targeting the viewer instead.
Even when The Green Berets' surprisingly bloody battles consume the proceedings, Wayne can be heard in the background peddling his wares. They're evil communists! We're justified in our involvement! If we don't, who will? Sadly, the only message that rings true, especially forty years after the fact, is that a soldier shouldn't be painted into a corner with the war in which he fights. I can see the kitschy appeal of such a dated war film -- throats being slit, knifes jutting out of backs, and bullets tearing through bodies in a G-rated catalog "classic" is an unintentionally hilarious sight -- but Wayne's incessant lecturing thoroughly overwhelms any entertainment value it might otherwise have. I was bored and unamused, glancing at the clock time and time again, wondering when it would finally come to a close. Never mind the poorly paced story or the disjointed narrative, never mind the cheesy dialogue or random tangents that populate the script (Irene Tsu's Lin, anyone?). The Green Berets isn't a great film... or for that matter, a particularly good one either. How it jumped ahead of so many true classics to nab a Blu-ray release is beyond me. John Wayne completists rejoice. Few others will.
The Green Berets features a clean 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, all things considered, looks pretty good. Skintones sometimes falter, burdensome DNR has been applied to the entire film, and the grain that once dotted the Vietnamese skies occasionally resembles a flickering, soupy mess, but many other aspects of the technical presentation are sound. Be it the lush green canopy of a sweaty jungle or the fiery pillar of an explosion, colors are healthy and vibrant. Likewise, blacks remain deep and well-resolved throughout, contrast is strong and stable, and detail is fairly impressive. Several scenes suffer from severe softness and smearing -- the nighttime shots that dominate chapter eleven being the worst of the bunch -- but I suspect most, if not all of these inconsistencies can be attributed to the film's original print. More often than not, edge definition is adequate, background foliage and foreground fabrics are convincing, and delineation is solid, particularly for a forty-year-old catalog title. Yes, faint artifacting, crush and aliasing appear, and yes, ringing is a constant problem, but each issue is kept to a minimum in all but a handful of establishing shots. As it stands, Warner's restoration isn't going to blow away any discerning videophile, but genre hounds armed with reasonable expectations will be mildly pleased.
I have no intention of criticizing Warner's decision to forgo a 5.1 remix in favor of a Dolby TrueHD mono track. After all, the disc's sonics, though pumped through a single channel, are faithful to the film's original sound design. What I will complain about is the resulting experience. Dialogue is generally clear and intelligible, but voices are often either flat or tinny, explosions and gunfire tend to overwhelm the actors' lines, and sound effects come and go as they please (the strangely mute Vietnamese farmers that populate the locations are a particular distraction). Without the assistance of the LFE channel, low-end tones struggle to make their presence known while more aggressive booms and thooms are tragically distorted. Moreover, approaching officers speak at the same volume as distant soldiers, meaning the mix lacks any semblance of aural depth (something top-tier mono tracks still manage to convey). Don't get me wrong, the TrueHD offering is much meatier and more satisfying than its standard Dolby Digital counterparts, but a more thorough overhaul could have improved matters without sacrificing the integrity of the source. Ah well. As mono mixes go, it's a decent one.
The Blu-ray edition of The Green Berets includes just two special features: a vintage EPK called "The Moviemakers" (SD, 7 minutes) and the film's theatrical trailer (SD, 3 minutes). It isn't much, but I suppose it's at least something.
The Green Berets is a curiously quaint, terribly naive look at the Vietnam war that lacks the subtlety and relevance of its grittier '70s successors. Wayne's desire to separate the soldiers from their war is commendable, and not without merit, but his guns-n-glory approach and simplistic advocation of the conflict undermines his intentions. A product of its time, it fails to emerge as anything other than a rosy, misguided defense of a war most everyone in the forty years since its 1968 release has deemed a mismanaged political quagmire. The Blu-ray edition isn't much better. It features a problematic video transfer, an underwhelming Dolby TrueHD mono mix, and a mere ten minutes of supplemental content. I'm not sure how The Green Berets earned a Blu-ray release when so many beloved classics are patiently biding their time in standard definition, but anyone who appreciates Wayne's transparent war film will get their money's worth.
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Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the John Wayne film 'The Green Berets' to Blu-ray on January 5th, 2010. Video will be presented in 2.40:1 1080p VC-1 accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The only special feature is a featurette called ...