Netflix is full of documentaries, on just about every theme imaginable. And in the register of the Second World War, the catalog of the platform has a formidable nugget: Five men and a war. A must see.
It’s an understatement to say that the Netflix catalog is an almost bottomless well when it comes to documentaries, on just about every possible subject. An abundance of choice, not always happy by the way. In the register of works evoking the Second World War there are some beautiful nuggets, including this one, produced by the platform precisely: Five men and a war.
Adapted from a book written by Mark Harris titled Five Cam Back and released in 2014, it’s an extraordinary documentary miniseries showing how Hollywood changed WWII and how WWII changed Hollywood, through the intersecting experiences of five filmmakers who paused their burgeoning careers to serve their countries: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens.
The subject, already exciting, is all the more amplified as it is carried by illustrious filmmakers and Hollywood talents: Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Lawrence Kasdan and Paul Greengrass, who have complied with the game of educational commentary.
Listening to a Guillermo del Toro dissect and put into perspective Capra’s Life is Beautiful, or a Steven Spielberg recounting the importance of a film like The Best Years of Our Life, is worth its weight in cinephilia incarnate. To those who might be surprised to see such a Who’s Who on this documentary, the answer is already found: Five Men and a War is co-produced by Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg’s company. It can actually help to beat the recall…
The story, supported in voice-over (and in VO) by Meryl Streep, is served by a colossal work carried out by the French specialist Laurent Bouzereau, well known to lovers of making-of cult films, who has gone through more than a hundred hours of archival and news footage, watched more than 40 documentaries and training films directed and produced by the five directors during the war, studied 50 studio films and more than 30 hours of shots and unedited footage from their war films. All this to deliver a documentary sum in three parts of 59, 67 and 69 min. Did you say essential? Perfectly!