Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s surprisingly contemplative documentary In Country considers a group of men who re-create the Vietnam War for days at a time in Oregon.
They aren’t performing for an audience, like Civil War re-enactors; it’s more like live-action role-playing (LARPing), choosing random cards to determine their fate in battles. Some are veterans of recent wars, such as husband, father, and possible PTSD sufferer Charles “Tuna” Ford, who’s recently returned from Iraq and is looking forward to being deployed to Afghanistan, where at least he’ll understand his role.
Especially fascinating is Vinh Nguyen, who fought for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam as a teenager in the early 1970s; he says he’s trying to return to the time when he felt like he was doing something important.
O’Hara and Attie never judge the players, letting their words and actions speak, though those actions are often intercut with footage from the real war. (Movies such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket are also namechecked.)
None of it looks pleasant, but if it was, they probably wouldn’t be there in the first place, and a chilling shot toward the end, of smiling young boys posing with machine guns at a Veterans Day parade, suggests the cycle won’t end anytime soon.