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Retrospective Film Review: Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam

Sunday 31 August 2014

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Words Ailis Mara

The chaos and delirium of the Vietnam war provides the perfect backdrop for Barry Levinson’s legendary war comedy, a place where chain of command seeks to counter the insanity of the battle via Mantovani and dulcet, truncated and redacted news reports. The ‘one man rallying against the system construct’ is of course, as old as the hills, but persists because even in good old progressive 2014, there are still plenty of global systems still standing to rally against.

Robin Williams’ largely improvised Armed Forces Radio Service madcap broadcasts provide the troops with some much needed levity and distraction from obsessing that each second that passes in this alien land may very well be their last. But the powers that be, particularly uptight Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson (J. T Walsh, who’s the CO of this kind of dickishness), insist the boat not be rocked and protocol is carried out. This is the United States Marine Corp, don’t you know, not a circus. What we know is that laughter is about more than releasing endorphins and boosting the immune system; it’s the ultimate skeleton key. And Robin Williams was the ultimate liberator.

Words: Ash Verjee