Seeing Vietnam through veteran eyes

Courtney Clemente

Writer and director Patrick Sheane Duncan, a former Vietnam veteran, recounts an exclusive and dramatic portrayal of the Vietnam War in the film “84 Charlie Mopic.” This film has been promoted as the first feature film directed by a veteran of combat that provides viewers with up-close details of the Vietnam War.

“84 Charlie Mopic” depicts the nightmarish world of Vietnam through the eyes of a combat cameraman who has already been on two tours of duty and goes on a third because he is enthralled by a reel of film found on the body of a dead photographer. This cameraman, known as “Mopic” (an acronym for the Army Motion Picture Corps), uses a film-within-a-film technique to record the actions of a six-man squadron.

Mopic and his 16mm camera accompany the patrol into the depths of Vietnam, filming their search for Charlie along with their day-to-day struggles to stay alive and well.

The film’s footage is entirely viewed through the one camera being carried along by the filmmaker.

Thus, in an entirely subjective fashion, viewers are able to meet the main characters in their natural environment without hindrance from outside forces. As the story winds down, Mopic faces a dilemma: he can rescue a fellow soldier, but in doing so he’d have to abandon his camera.

The inspirational narrative is pertinent to the survival of these Vietnam War veterans, and, moreover, presents itself in an honest and authentic manner. Although some of the elements may seem familiar and downright predictable, the story takes a sudden, unexpected turns of real warfare rather than the manufactured developments of a Hollywood plot.

As the six members of the reconnaissance team go deeper and deeper into the highlands of Vietnam, eventually getting lost, they become imbued with a sense of hopelessness. The experience of the one vet among them only goes so far in getting them to conquer the obstacles they must face on this mission.

The actors who portray the soldiers are relatively unknown and this, along with the way they address the camera as if they are talking to the man carrying it, makes the situation seem authentic. As a result, the film has an in-your-face sense of immediacy.

What makes Mopic’s subjective camera style convincing is that he is not simply recording the action, but trying to make a documentary that can be used as a training film for other infantry men as well.

The film is dedicated to the 101st, 173rd, and 82nd Airborne Divisions and, as one reviewer claimed, “This film will make you want to go out and thank a Vietnam veteran.”

“84 Charlie Mopic” will be shown Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema.

Admission is $3 for students and $4 for adults. The Monday showing will be followed by a discussion titled, “A Soldier’s Point of View of Vietnam,” given by Jim Kirschke, a Vietnam vet who teaches at Villanova.