Parents' Guide to

Hearts and Minds

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Provocative Vietnam War docu with violence, racial slurs.

Movie R 2002 112 minutes
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Hearts and Minds is a frank discussion about the price paid by so many on all sides for this divisive military conflict. Whether you believe the Vietnam War was a battle the Vietnamese waged against colonialism, or a battle Americans (and before them, the French) waged against the spread of international communism -- or if you don't know what you think -- it is impossible to finish watching Hearts and Minds without having a strong opinion on the war, and this documentary's bold efforts to understand the war. Nearly 40 years after its controversial release, many of the issues raised -- about war, American foreign policy, patriotism, and America's role in the world as a super power -- remain in the forefront of a still-divided nation.

What has changed since that time -- publicly, anyway -- are some of the shocking expressions of racism in the documentary; for instance, a recently returned American prisoner of war freely uses the word "gooks" when discussing his experiences as a soldier with a women's club in his hometown. The racial slurs, coupled with the intense scenes of war, will make this a difficult experience for younger and more sensitive viewers. It's a documentary that shows war in all its complexities and outright ugliness (and a welcome contrast to the typical Hollywood glamorization of battle).

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