It's no secret that the U.S. departed hastily and awkwardly from Vietnam in the spring of 1975, but Rory Kennedy's documentary fills in plenty of fascinating and troubling detail about the final hours before Saigon's fall. Through contemporary first-person interviews and extensive archival footage, those on the ground — American military and diplomatic personnel, as well as South Vietnamese military and civilians — tell their stories. Most relate the scramble to evacuate remaining Americans along with as many South Vietnamese as possible, in operations both sanctioned and otherwise, and in methods orderly and dangerously haphazard.
Much like the war itself, muses one former military man, a humanitarian evacuation of imperiled South Vietnamese was well-intentioned, but there was no clear strategy, and the result was a chaotic mess. The failure is heartbreaking, but amidst the harrowing disaster are these tales of ingenuity, humanity and courage. In hindsight, too, are lessons about America's trouble disentangling from military ventures that don't quite turn out right — timely reflection as we "leave" Iraq and Afghanistan.