Douglas Brinkley’s book Tour of Duty
has been loosely adapted into a blatantly pro-Kerry but nonetheless compelling documentary that is just as much a snapshot of a country in moral turmoil as it is the story of a man who fought in and then took a stand against the Vietnam War. Director-producer George Butler, who captured Arnold Schwarzenegger preparing for a Mr. Universe title in Pumping Iron
, is a Kerry friend and former volunteer for VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). He began documenting Kerry’s leadership of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, early political activity and personal life in 1969. Here he weaves his photographs, home movies, archival footage and interviews with Kerry’s military and civilian intimates into a tapestry of a man who “looks like a Kennedy, talks a like Kennedy” and just may belatedly follow Kennedy into the White House this fall. The film rather one-sidedly addresses Kerry’s controversial missions aboard 50-foot Swift boats, but, more importantly, it asks if we have really learned anything from the Southeast Asian conflict in which more than 58,000 Americans lost their lives.