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Going Upriver - The Long War of John Kerry

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is an extraordinary inside look at Character and moral leadership during a time of national crisis. Loosely based on Douglas Brinkley's best-selling book Tour Of Duty, this incredibly intimate film delves into the life of John Kerry and focuses on the key events that made him a national figure and the man he is today. The film places particular emphasis on his bravery during the Vietnam War and his courageous opposition to the war upon his return.

Acclaimed director George Butler (Pumping Iron, The Endurance: Schackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition) has known Senator Kerry since 1964 and in 1969 began photographing him, in an effort to document his life and career. Using his unique collection of images, the film weaves together Butler's photography with archival material, interviews with Kerry's closest associates as well as contemporary footage of him at home and abroad. More than a biography of John Kerry, Going Upriver is the story of an American generation that came of age in the tumultuous '60s and that has now come to national leadership at the beginning of a new century - when issues of war and morality once again hold center stage.

Amazon.com

Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry begins by juxtaposing beautiful images of Vietnam with horrific images of the Vietnam War. But though its depiction of the war is vivid--and the accounts of 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry's heroism, told by the men who served with him, are plain and free of hyperbole--it's his actions after he came back to the U.S. that stand out in this documentary. Kerry's involvement with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, for whom he became an inadvertent but eloquent spokesperson, required as much courage as facing the Viet Cong. Going Upriver gives a clear sense of the emotional and social pressures of the anti-war protests, where speaking one's mind became as powerful as firing a gun. Going Upriver's emphasis on post-war activity makes it an excellent complement to the documentary Brothers in Arms, which focuses on Kerry's swift-boat experiences in Vietnam. Though Going Upriver suffers from some soundbites that seem too tailor-made for Kerry's presidential campaign, it doesn't make other veterans feel like political props, as Brothers in Arms started to do towards the end. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer
  • Director profile

Product Details

  • Actors: John Kerry
  • Directors: George Butler
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Non Fiction Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000646MMA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,024 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Going Upriver - The Long War of John Kerry" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James L. Frank, Jr. on October 9, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am a swing voter and I anticipated that this movie would help me better understand John Kerry as a person and as a leader. It did both and much much more. Clearly, he is a brave and heroic man for having volunteered to serve his country during war and then to oppose it after returning home and listening to many other vets, that something was dramatically wrong with the U.S.'s position. With our 20/20 hindsight, we now know many things were wrong with the US's involvement in Vietnam but he had the courage and insight to see it then!!! as a 27 year old!!! He knew standing against the war would be a potential problem with his political aspirations and he did it anyway because he felt it was the right thing to do. If this doesn't stand in stark contrast to the draft dodging of the so-called leaders in the White House now, you obviously are someone who cannot face the facts.

Although born to a certain level of status, he served with men from all backgrounds and won their respect. He has certainly won my respect and my vote and I highly encourage people to see this movie to learn the context of Kerry's background and to watch an excellent documentary of a very difficult time in American History.
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Format: DVD
I have not seen the DVD but caught this film in a theatre in my city. I was much more impressed with it than I expected to be. I had thought it would be little more than a testimonial to Kerry, and, while there is certainly that element in it, the film's focus actually goes well beyond that. It presents a compelling portrait of the veterans who returned home from the Vietnam War in the early 1970's, particularly those who felt they had to speak out against it. This is the first documentary treatment I've seen of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement, and it's a poignant reminder of the complexity of the issues and emotions that were current at the time. We have tended to forget and oversimplify what these men went through, both during their tours of duty in the war and upon their return to the States. Whatever your feelings about the issues, this film is a serious effort to present those issues in their historical context. Also, from a purely technical standpoint, it is a well-made film.
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Last Friday I saw "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry." I saw footage of things in Vietnam, including swiftboat battle footage, that I would have never understood. Same about the Vietnam vets first in the war and then against. I saw politicians delivering messages that have remained with us, and Nixon's "plumbers" watching the big Vietnam Vets Against the War demo from atop the White House. I heard entertaining excerpt's from Nixon's Watergate tapes, including the one where they retain Swift Boat Veterans for Lies leader John O'Neill to discredit Kerry. I heard Vietnam Vets describe how they lived the war, and heard Kerry wonder out loud in a letter about a Vietnamese fighter he had just shot. I saw Vets vote on whether to break the law by sleeping, and I heard them tell some of their stories. I saw some stunning photography in Vietnam, and some short, fuzzy, home movie clippings.

This is not an advertising film; it's a documentary - a personality study - by the man who wrote "Pumping Iron" about Arnold Schwarzeneggar. At the same time, it dispenses with the Swift Boat Veterans for Falsehood lies simply by talking to the folks who were in the boat with Kerry, whom he protected with personally painful and dangerous actions that really did earn him his medal. The mortality rate in those swift boats was 75% and up, but Kerry's crew members say his quick reactions kept them alive. You can't picture Kerry waiting dumbly 7 to 17 minutes while the Twin Towers are burning.

After going home, Young Kerry showed leadership and maturity as he organized Vietnam Vets Against the War, and helped fellow Vets overcome their trauma and anger to create a peaceful, articulate movement that helped bring the Vietnam War to an end.

I have never considered leadership qualities in choosing a candidate. That just changed.
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I saw this movie yesterday, and certain scenes are still going through my head, in particular two of the films most wrenching and powerful moments: the first during the Winter Soldier meetings, when veterans came together and talked about their terrible experiences during the war, and the second the moment when the soldiers threw their medals over a fence. That moment had been touched on in the press ad the Republican campaign recently, as the moment where John Kerry "threw his medals away."

But you see here hundreds of soldiers, sometimes even family members and mothers of soldiers who had died, going through true agony as they made the choice to throw their medals, which they felt they had earned with their blood and lives, over the wall. The feeling of betrayal, of hurt and fury were made palpable in the film.

These moments alone, which I had never read about in any detail in high school history books, even in discussions of Vietnam War opposition and protest, made the film worth seeing to anyone curious about the war, Kerry's role in it, and the frightening parallels to the war today. But the rest of the movie is very quiet and measured. It didn't fall into blind praise of Kerry as I had expected it would, but really tried to depict how the war affected him, and his transformation from soldier to protester in a way I found compelling. His testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during these protests is eloquent and compelling evidence of the kind of man he was then and, one hopes, the kind of man he is today.

That testimony, combined with the scenes of the VWVAW protests, especially when you consider how they were in effect spit upon and forgotten in the years since the war, will make this movie an informative and measured antidote to the spewing forth of empty rhetoric and shrill accusations this election season.
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