1 July 2015 l Lakeland, Florida. For those who lived through the long Vietnam era the war is still vividly in our minds. Faith of Our Fathers, the latest release from Pure Flix, brings back those tense years and includes a message of Christian faith even as secularism seemingly continues to make inroads into our culture. Faith of Our Fathers is an effort to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam Conflict. The company is additionally promoting their new film as “a story of fatherhood” and “a journey of brotherhood.” The end product is, as stated, a “faith film honoring the U.S. Military and families.”
The tale follows two young American fathers, both serving in the U.S. Army, within the tropical environment of South Vietnam during 1969. One of the young men is a man of faith and the other initially cynical about religion. Their squad is tasked to recover the bodies of a crashed Douglas C-47 Skytrain‘s aircrew in the Mekong Delta where Marxist–Leninist soldiers of North Vietnam patrol. The G.I.’s dutifully move out carrying their M-16s and M-1 Carbines.
Several decades later the infantrymen’s sons meet after the more persistent of the two perseveres in a search to contact the other. The two boys, one from California and the other Mississippi, embark on a memorable journey of discovery and to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Along the way the men receive insights and guidance from handwritten letters penned by their fathers on the battlefield. In the process the two realize that war cannot break the love of a father for his son and the importance of faith in God. The two sagas are interwoven through most of the movie, and the cinematography occasionally weaves back and forth between 1969 and more recent times.
The opening is powerful as viewers encounter scenes of a Boeing CH-47 Chinook alighting into a landing zone and an airborne Bell UH-1 Iroquois (aka Huey) and soldiers are attired in period khaki uniforms and sporting gold chevrons of enlisted rank. Beneath lay the jungle canopy that shielded movement and savage fighting from views.
Seeing the images one can almost feel the oppressive heat, see the mist and feel the dampness. At this point a shiver went up the reviewer’s spine and his eyes moistened. At first this reviewer thought that perhaps a colleague, who served as a member of the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam and was wounded in action, may have been correct when he declined an invitation to the first showing. “I don’t think I could handle it,” he explained. Nevertheless, a Vietnam veteran and former 25th Infantry Division, the very unit the soldiers portrayed in Faith of Our Fathers fictitiously represent, Hughes OH-6A Cayuse helicopter crew chief did attend and afterward provided his feedback.
Notable actors include Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Downes, David A.R. White, Rebecca St. James, Candace Cameron Bure (Full House) and Vietnam veteran Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. For the most part the actors and actresses provided good acting and were believable in their roles. Even the mosquitoes were convincing and appeared on cue. Candace Cameron Bure sparkles. Si Robertson provides characteristic levity, and in total the film contains considerable amounts of humor, irony and plot twists that eventually converge.
The only thing missing was a soundtrack that included period music such as The Animals’ We Gotta Get out of This Place, It’s My Life, When I Was Young, Sky Pilot, The Rolling Stones’ I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, and Zager and Evans’ In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus). For many old enough to recall those times only a few musical notes of one of the aforementioned tunes is enough to send one’s thoughts racing instantly back to the unforgettable nights of yore. Perhaps it is best those tunes were not utilized for Faith of Our Fathers because some patrons could have been emotionally overwhelmed. Notwithstanding the lack of the aforementioned melodies, the score was appropriate and impressive.
My soldier companion and I spotted a number of small factual errors, but those who did not serve in the 1960s military in Southeast Asia or are not historians will be oblivious to these minor failings. Furthermore, secularists and atheists will likely not be accepting of the film’s scenes containing professions, proselytizing and Bible reading.
Fellow moviegoers seemed to like the offering, but small children may be upset by the realistic combat content. Otherwise all, including those of other faiths who are secure and comfortable in their tradition, are encouraged to attend a showing.
Faith of Our Fathers will entertain church congregations, and, once the production is available on DVD, be of value to military chaplains, Civil Air Patrol Chaplain Corps personnel and possibly Christian PTSD mental health professionals. On a scale of 5 the film earns a score of 3 1/2 to 4.
The reviewer (John Stemple) thanks Michael Conrad of Lovell-Fairchild Communications for his cooperation and Pure Flix for freely providing media resources.