A review of “Going Upriver:  The Long War of John Kerry” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for grisly war images and languages

Run Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

 

 

For the first time in history the presidential campaign is being waged in a movie theater.  Documentaries are flowing fast and furious, from Michael Moore’s acerbic Fahrenheit 9/11 to Bush’s Brain. John Kerry’s gets his turn in this dedicated snub to the folks who are hanging a question mark over his armed services record.

Kerry is the sole subject of this feature-length doc chronicling an upstanding young American who felt it his obligation to serve his country in Vietnam, then took the road less traveled by speaking out against a senseless war.

Kerry’s disillusionment is the crux of this illuminating story that smacks of patent propaganda at the same time that is honors a hero of unusual derring-do.  Kerry’s Silver Star for gallantry and intrepidity in action is the consistent theme, segueing into national recognition as an outspoken anti-war activist who happens to love his country. 

As a leader of the influential Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Kerry was a fixture on the evening news in the early 70s.  Considering his designs on a traditional political career, Kerry’s high-profile showing at Dewey Canyon III (a militant protest against Congress and the U.S. Government) seems akin to political suicide. His stirring speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn’t lay any new groundwork, but emphasizes the man’s steadfast commitment to America.

Countless talking heads, supported by an abundance of archival footage and period photographs, hammer the point home with the stealth of a jack-hammer. Not a hint of objectivity, just a blatant political valentine to a hardy presidential hopeful.

Kerry’s courage under fire translates to the political playing field in large moral dimensions.  Effective yet manipulative, and perfectly fair game for an election year.