In 1975, refugee camps were set up across the deserts of the United States to house an exodus of over 100,000 Vietnamese immigrants before and immediately after the fall of Saigon. When Tai (Don Duong) arrives at Camp Pendleton, he is confronted by a camp filled with despair. Jim Lance (Patrick Swayze) is the Marine in charge of housing the refugees until sponsors can be found to help them assimilate into American life. Lance quickly commissions Tai, who speaks English, to translate for him. Prepare to embark on a remarkable journey as an unlikely bond of friendship is formed between two men from opposite sides of one of the world's most infamous and bloodiest wars.
A little-known aspect of America's Vietnam War debacle--life in the temporary camps set up in the States for the thousands of refugees who came here after the fall of Saigon in 1975--is the subject of this 113-minute film, released in 2001. Director-cowriter Timothy Linh Bui and his brother, writer-producer Tony Bui, have made a movie that's obviously very sympathetic to its Vietnamese characters; Green Dragon
is also apparently quite realistic, and refreshingly lacking in excessive sentimentality. Much of it is in Vietnamese (with English subtitles, of course); indeed, one senses that nominal top-liners Patrick Swayze and the always-reliable Forest Whitaker are on hand more for their star power than for the importance of their roles. In the end, this is a good story that's rather well told. The DVD is packed with extras, including director commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, and a behind-the-scenes documentary. --Sam Graham