This assignment was designed for a 300-level History Through Film class on the Vietnam War. See the syllabus here. The goal in this assignment is for students to write a film review focused on the film’s perspective, historical context, and relationship to other films and sources rather than the formal properties of the film.
Write a 3–4 page film review on one of the films from the attached list. You should watch the film at least twice. The first time, watch without taking notes; the second time, take notes on specific elements that you want to discuss in your review.
Your review should have a clear point of view and should follow the organization outlined below.
- Begin with a hook that will make the reader want to keep reading. A good hook might mention an interesting fact about the film or reveal why you were interested in the film.
- Provide information about the film, including its title, year, and director.
- This paragraph should also answer the following questions about the film:
— Is it a documentary or a feature film?
— Was it released during the Vietnam War? (If so, at what point? What was going on in the war the year it was released?) Or was it released after the war? (If so, how long after? What is the historical context of the year/ decade it was released?)
— Is it based on a novel or memoir? Is it based on true events? Is it a purely fictional story set in the Vietnam War era or does it purport to depict actual historical events and people?
- Conclude the paragraph with a sentence that reveals your perspective of the film. This does not need to be a thesis statement, but it should clearly indicate what you see as the film’s salient characteristics, virtues, or flaws (which you will elaborate on in the analysis paragraphs).
Plot summary paragraph
- Provide an accurate, concise description of the film’s plot (or, if it is a documentary, its scope). This paragraph should provide enough information for a reader who has not seen the film to understand the rest of your review. You may include spoilers.
- This paragraph should clearly situate the film in relation to the timeline of the war and other Vietnam War films. Discuss its release date in relation to relevant developments discussed in this course. Who is the target audience? Is the film responding to other Vietnam War films? Is it responding to specific narratives about the war?
Analysis paragraph: Argument
- What argument is the film making? What does the filmmaker want viewers to leave the theater thinking or discussing? (And how does this connect to the historical context/ the film’s release date?) Does the film effectively deliver its message? If so, what makes it effective? If not, explain why you were not convinced. (Use the last sentence of this paragraph to transition into the next paragraph.)
Analysis paragraph: Historical Accuracy
- How is the film’s historical accuracy supported or challenged by the historical record? Use your knowledge from this course (lectures, readings, discussions, and other films) to assess the accuracy of the film you are reviewing. You may include a limited number of quotes from relevant course materials.
- This paragraph should clarify what you see as the “headline” about this film. In other words, what is its defining contribution or significance to the category of Vietnam War films? Finally, should the film, in your opinion, be required viewing in this course? Why or why not?
You should view the film’s original theatrical trailer. Most are available on YouTube. Make sure you are viewing the original trailer and not a subsequent DVD or re-release trailer. How was the film advertised to audiences?
Internet Movie Database (IMDb), www.imdb.com
Use IMDB for information on the film’s release and personnel (director, screenwriter, producer, etc.).
If we did not read about this film in class, you should read at least one review of the film so that you can evaluate the context of its release. You can find historical reviews of most feature films at:
New York Times Movie Reviews, https://www.nytimes.com/reviews/movies
Format and Submission
Your review should italicize film titles each time you use them, and the first time you mention a film, include the film’s year of release, i.e. The Post (2017). Your review should be carefully proofread, and should be double-spaced in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Please submit it electronically (to Safe Assign on Blackboard) by midnight on Friday, May 28.
** All information must be cited, including film reviews and IMDB pages.
Use Chicago-style citations (footnotes or endnotes).
The format for films is:
Good Morning, Vietnam. Directed by Barry Levinson. Touchstone Pictures, 1987.
The format for documents is:
“A Vietnam Veterans Opposes the War, 1971,” Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, 413-16.
(You do not need the full Major Problems citation.)
The format for film reviews is:
Vincent Canby, “Film: Post-Vietnam Romantic Triangle,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 1978.
Roger Ebert, “Apocalypse Now,” RogerEbert.com, June 1, 1979, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/apocalypse-now-1979.
If you need more examples, see the Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide, https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html.
To insert a footnote in Word:
- click References in the top toolbar
- click Insert Footnote
- type the citation in the space provided. That’s it!
- You do not need to include a bibliography. Footnotes/endnotes are sufficient for this assignment.
Other Useful Links: Film Review Guides
How to Write a Movie Review: 5 Tips for Writing Movie Reviews, MasterClass, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-movie-review#what-is-a-movie-review
Film Review, Writing Studio, Duke University, https://twp.duke.edu/sites/twp.duke.edu/files/file-attachments/film-review-1.original.pdf
List of Eligible Films
The Green Berets (1968)
Winter Soldier (1972)
Hearts and Minds (1974)
Little Girl of Hanoi (1975)
Coming Home (1978)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
First Blood [Rambo I] (1982)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Hamburger Hill (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Casualties of War (1989)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Heaven & Earth (1993)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
The Quiet American (2002)
*** If you want to review a film not on this list, please let me know and we can discuss
Featured image: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons