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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'Color' paints grim picture of war

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sometimes there's nothing better than a good documentary. Unfortunately, those are difficult to come by at times. More often than not, instead of letting the stories tell themselves, what you get is a director pushing his agenda, leaving the truth behind.

An added element that always enhances the experience is when actual footage is shown instead of dramatized bits here and there.

In "World War I in Color", the viewer gets all of this and more. The almost five-hour documentary offers a rare glimpse into the first World War, made even more dramatic with digital enhancements to turn the black and white imagery to color.

The three-DVD set is narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Sir Kenneth Branagh and is filled with archival footage and insight by historians as well as the men who were on the front lines.

The set features two discs containing three episodes each, with the third disc saved for a few nice bonus features. "Tactics and Strategy" is a 50-minute featurette and "Making the Series" is another featurette with Philip Nugus and Jonathan Martin explaining the challenges and process of constructing the documentary.

What's nice about "World War I in Color" is the fact that each episode addresses a different aspect of the war. My two favorite episodes were "Blood in the Air" and "Mayhem on the Eastern Front."

Having been produced in England, the set doesn't address the American element of the war too much. However, the powerful images and message of survivors is intriguing enough to keep anyone involved.

The star of this set is the stories. We all know that war isn't as glorious as movies portray it, and to hear these men talk of their experiences and what they saw at young ages drive that point home even further.

When you hear a man tell the story of coming upon another soldier who had been mortally wounded and his voice, shaken either by age or the memory of the scene, recalls that as the soldier begged for them to kill him and that his final words on this earth were "mother,' it's hard to understand how anyone could glamorize anything so heartbreaking.

Final Cut: In a time of war, it's sometimes easy to distance oneself from what is taking place and the impact it will have on the world. "World War I in Color" is a stark reminder that war scars all and the people who truly pay the price is everyone. A very powerful documentary.

4.5 out of 5 stars

World War I in Color

Starring: Arthur Barraclough, Harry Patch, Arthur Halestrap, Hubert Williams

Director: Jonathan Martin

Narrator: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: Simon Berthon