Hearts and Minds is a powerful documentary directed by Peter Davis, that exemplifies what a documentary can and should be. Rightfully so Hearts and Minds won the Oscar for Best Documentary, and remains a powerful, yet unsettling viewing experience. Hearts and Minds exemplifies a great documentary, because it tells an important and relevant real story, it remains as objective in it's presentation as possible, and it never holds back. All of this being said the film really features so much disturbing imagery, only so many people can willingly watch it, and more than likely many more will avoid it.
The scope of the film is quite large, in terms of time, as it really covers about a ten to fifteen year period. The scope combined with the impact of the Vietnam War, make the story the documentary is telling all the more relevant, and important. When looking at real events in United States history that show an evolution, and are "film" worthy the Vietnam War is on the top of that list. Even more impressive is Davis method of telling his story, as there was probably a story to be told about the war exclusively, but Davis chose to show how the war affected the country. This made the scope larger, and the story even more relevant.
Davis did a great job of showing the Country's borderline unflinching faith in its government, and that by the end of the war, the attitudes of almost everybody had changed, in some way. With so many different views, and such a complex issue, it would have been easy for Davis to focus on one side, but he went out of his way to show almost all viewpoints, and even portray them in a way where the audience can empathize with most of them. This makes his presentation all the more powerful, as the audience is almost forced to feel conflicted. Davis used this tactic to show the polarizing aspects of war, as well as "thinking revolution" that the country underwent with Vietnam.
To fully understand the "Thinking Revolution" Davis had to show the atrocities of war, so that the audience, whenever they may watch it would fully understand why there was a thinking revolution. The film never really holds back, it shows every different viewpoint, as well as what happened in the war, however disturbing it may be. Throughout the film the audience is subjected to terrible imagery, that is even scarier because it's real, and uncensored. Watching this an audience member could finally realize how glorified films are, as none of them capture the nauseating imagery this film is full of. In the end the message seems anti-war, as it never presents that message, but it also bombards the audience with mostly negative imagery.
In the end Hearts and Minds is a powerful, albeit disturbing experience, not meant for the weak-stomached or weak-willed. The film brilliantly shows an evolution of multiple societies, as well as the polarizing and negative aspects of the Vietnam War. The film should be commended for showing various different viewpoints and rarely treating any viewpoint with irreverence. Hearts and Minds, truly is a disturbing yet necessary experience.