From where I sit, this is essential viewing. Currently streaming on Netflix and based on the best-selling book by Mark Harris, the mega-engrossing three part documentary series Five Came Back traces the valiant efforts of John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens and their front-line, balls-of-steel filming of WWII and its many battles and facets. Director Laurent Bouzereau assembled some of our finest modern filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, Paul Greengrass, Francis Ford Coppola, Lawrence Kasdan, and Guillermo del Toro to narrate the episodes, all of whom bring intelligence and reverence to the material and these extraordinary men who put their lives on the line to show the world what was going on during one of the most life-changing events in the history of humanity.
Meryl Streep’s elegant narration is a natural fit with the info-packed material, while Thomas Newman’s thoughtful musical score hits all of the right emotional marks. The filmmakers reviewed over 100 hours of newsreel and archival footage, as well as over 40 documentaries and training films which were created by the Big Five who are up for discussion. I’m fascinated by Hollywood’s relationship with war-time narratives, and this documentary was illuminating, sobering, and extremely entertaining. Extra tidbit: there are 13 WWII-era documentaries discussed by name during Five Came Back, and Netflix is also streaming all of those works as well. For history buffs, cinema buffs, and anyone who values the world around us, this is a MUST SEE.