Found Footage 101: ’84 Charlie MoPic’ (USA, 1989)

❉ We continue our ‘found footage’ retrospective with ’84 Charlie MoPic’: A filmmaker is attached to a unit in Vietnam.  Out in the jungle, their mission goes horribly wrong…

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Plot Teaser

A filmmaker is attached to a unit in Vietnam.  Out in the jungle, their mission goes horribly wrong.

You’ll Like This If You Like…

War movies told on an intimate scale; Vietnam.

Spoiler-Free Review

The budget may not be there for big action set-pieces, this film instead chooses to focus on the lives of the men in the unit.  It’s a compelling story, with likeable characters, and it does well to depict the reality of life for soldiers in a war zone.

SPOILERS BELOW!

Location

California doubling for Vietnam.

Enemy

The Vietcong.

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Why Are You Still Filming?

Surprisingly, no one asks this within the film, even when the mission has gone to hell and people are dying all around.  Given that the cameraman is unarmed, you’d expect the audience  to find his actions odd, yet the filming remains credible throughout.  Naturally, the second the cameraman puts his camera down he’s shot.

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Review and Analysis

Given the difficulty of conveying to an audience the reality of war, it’s surprising that more found footage films haven’t been set within this genre, particularly now given the availability of helmet cams.  Instead of showing a war from the director’s point of view, found footage allows the viewer to join the troops in a very intimate way, becoming a part of the action and joining the army.  That’s certainly true of this film, as we join the soldiers in the Vietnamese jungle.  There isn’t the budget for massed helicopter assaults to the strains of Wagner, but this isn’t a film about that; it’s a film about the soldiers, and the reality of war.  For long stretches nothing happens, the characters running through jungle, taking cover and talking to one another: encounters with the enemy are rare, just as they would be in reality, though no less fatal or explosive when they do occur.

We spend so much time with the men of the unit that we come to know them well – they become real people rather than clichés, and we find ourselves concerned for their outcome.

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Of course, the truth of war is such that everyone isn’t going to survive and they don’t.  The ending is particularly hard-hitting (the death of MoPic himself is tragic in the extreme, but shows just how well he has bonded with the men that, when presented with safety, he still goes back to help) and makes the film memorable.

Also noteworthy is that, although released at the same time as ‘U.F.O. Abduction’, this was made independently of it, so has as much right to describe itself as the first found footage film.

Availability

Currently available on DVD in the UK, Netherlands, Australia, Thailand and Korea (but strangely not the USA), none of the releases are in the correct aspect ratio but have been converted to 1.33:1.


❉ Next week in Found Footage 101: ‘Forbidden Quest’.

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