Ken Burns is not a man.  Look past his small round head and his now-graying beard and you will see that he is a juggernaut.  No one has ever made a documentary which can compare with one Ken Burns has done.  No one ever will.  If Michael Moore was one quarter of the filmmaker Ken Burns was, this entire nation would never elect a Republican again.

Look at Jazz.  Look at Baseball.  Look at The Civil War.  These are films which have defined broad and pervasive topics for these generations and their influence will never be shed.  If Burns were to remake the greatest large documentary which he didn’t make, Vietnam: A Television History, the original would be little more than a footnote in history.

But enough about Ken Burns and the overwhelming accolades he so obviously deserves.  Let’s take a look at his newest film – The War.

Produced for PBS, The War is a seven part, 15 hour masterpiece.  Burns is quick to admit that there is no way to tell the entire story of World War II, what those who lived through it still refer to simply as “The War.”  To solve that dilemma, he focuses on the wartime experiences of four soldiers from four different locations:  Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Luverne, Minnesota.  The result is a human look at a landscape usually dominated by dates, generals, hundred mile long fronts and tactics.

In the featurette, “Making The War”, Ken Burns speaks about how people can been telling him for years that he should make a documentary about the Second World War, but he never felt that he would be able to capture that story.  Yet when he learned that World War II veterans in America were passing away at the rate of 1,000 a day, he rethought that.  We will always have the facts of the war around, but we will not always have the experiences.  That is what Burns sets out to, and does, capture in this moving documentary.

The War contains all of the Ken Burns specials.  There is James Earl Jones doing the narration, Wynton Marsalis writing and performing songs for the soundtrack, long shots of haunting scenery, Tom Hanks reading letters as the handwritten script floats across the screen, famous and long-lost archival footage mixed together, a great focus on scenes of usually populated environments without people in them, and the camera panning across black and white photos to create the image of movement and to capture the eye.

The beautifully packaged boxed set contains six DVDs, each loaded with at least one episode.  The special features from the series are spread throughout the boxed set.  Episodes One and Four contain commentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  Disc One contains the featurette mentioned above, interviews, and biographies of those in the film.  Disc Six has deleted scenes and more interviews.  Every episode boasts a soundtrack built from the ground up.  Not just as far as the songs are concerned either.  All the archival footage Burns procured came without sound, so the recording engineers had to find, record, and mix every sound for every piece of footage.  The film was wrapped and ready to be broadcast but was placed on whole for over a year while the soundtrack was finished being compiled.  As always, the documentaries of Ken Burns are flawless in their attention to detail.

Through The War, Ken Burns sets the screen ablaze.

This DVD boxed set, soundtrack, and companion hardcover book is available at

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