I had the pleasure of originally seeing "Heaven and Earth" with some friends who recommended it. It was such a good movie I am almost ready to forgive them for renting "Waterworld" one Saturday night.
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I had seen Stone's other two Vietnam movies, "Platoon," and "Born on the Fourth of July," and although Stone is the first of the maddening genre of directors who feels that they are exempt from editing to a tight 100 minutes both movies were very good. I tend to agree with his general assessment of Vietnam and even right-wing vets agree that the time Stone put in "in-country" was pretty tough stuff and he has earned the right to his opinion even if you don't agree with it.
The first you notice about the movie is the gorgeous scenery. Now I think it was actually filmed in the Phillipines but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless. While it is nice to look at the scenery it is the story, a story that is so true and painful that it is no wonder that for the most part the movie was ignored. Hardly an escapist entertainment, indeed almost bordering on a brilliantly done documentary.
The story is, of course, the story of a Vietnamese woman. How typical she is we can only guess but it would seem that versions of her story abound in Vietnam. Her brothers went away to fight for "Charlie" and their stories put such a human face on "Charlie" that again it was almost painful to think that we devoted so much effort to his destruction. But "Charlie" is no angel either. Indeed a part of the story is the fact that she is raped by some of the Vietcong. She marries an American Psyops officer played by Tommy Lee Jones, and Stone only hints at the almost unimaginable efforts that were employed by Psyops in Vietnam.
To say that Stone uses her story to be say "a pox on both your houses" to the forces that opposed each other in Vietnam is far too simplistic. For the most wonderful find of all is that in this world in which the worldviews of American Psyops on the one hand and Vietcong stridency on the other would seem to paint pessimistic ultimate consequences, we find that this remarkable woman can not only get on with life but can cheerfully forgive, using her own life as the ultimate symbol of human hope.