GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


If, dear swing-state voter, you can chance hearing another word about Sen. John Kerry's time during and immediately after the Vietnam War, you'll find George Butler's hagiography based on Douglas Brinkley's biography, Tour of Duty, surprisingly compelling. When the film focuses exclusively on Kerry, it's admittedly as warm and fuzzy as a campaign commercial, but at its bitter heart is the 1971 Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement -- a significant event that has been cannibalized and parsed to bizarre ends in the 2004 presidential campaign, and hence deserves a proper airing. Through archival footage interspersed with contemporary interviews with Kerry colleagues, Butler effectively argues how Kerry's Vietnam experience created the man. Yet when the film depicts the 27-year-old Kerry giving his speech of a lifetime denouncing the war before the Senate, I reflected on how 30 subsequent years of politics -- and another messy war -- have muted this youthful firebrand.