The War (2007)

Genre(s): Documentary / Drama / War
PBS || NR - 840 minutes - $129.99 || October 2, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-10-11

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
Writer(s): Geoffrey C. Ward
Cast: Keith David (Narrator), Tom Hanks, Adam Arkin, Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Lucas

Theatrical Release Date: NA

Supplemental Material:
  • Episode Commentary
  • Making "The War" Featurette
  • Deleted & Additional Scenes
  • Photo Gallery
  • Biographies

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.


Note: Images not from DVD source.

"A current is established in the society so swift, flowing toward war, that every young man who steps into it is carried downstream."

Ken Burns' latest documentary mini-series is The War, which is based around the events of World War II. By now, most people are familiar with Burns' work after the success of his Civil War, Jazz and Baseball documentaries. Personally, my favorite of his documentaries thus far has been Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, which came out a few years ago. Burns is known for is use of archive photos to tell his stories rather than using stock footage (although one would have to rely solely on photos for the Civil War and some of the Baseball doc). Burns does not stray away at all from his use of photos versus film for The War but it sometimes hard not to show some of the amazing footage that was picked up by soldiers during this incredible war.

Instead of just repeating what most of us have already seen when it comes to World War II, Burns decided to take a different approach to telling his stories. Burns and his fellow director/producer Lynn Novick decided to select four cities in the United States that would geographically be distant but by emotionally affected similarly because of this war. The cities they chose were: Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento California and Luverne, Minnesota.

By taking this approach, Burns' documentary takes on a different angle than we are used to seeing when it comes to World War II. Burns inter-cuts his photos and footage with the lives of soldiers from these four very different towns. In a sense, as the viewer, we get a global look at what this war did but then see it reduced to a small town like Luverne and how it was affected by events that are thousands and thousands of miles away. Burns and Novick interview husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends etc.of those soldiers within each town. I believe this aspect of Burns' documentary is what makes it so fascinating and incredible to watch.


DISC ONE: "A Necessary War" (2 hrs 22 min)
DISC TWO: "When Things Get Tough" (1 hr 54 min), "A Deadly Calling" (1 hr 50 min)
DISC THREE: "Pride of Our Nation" (1 hr 54 min)
DISC FOUR: "FUBAR" (2 hrs 5 min)
DISC FIVE: "The Ghost Front" (1 hr 57 min)
DISC SIX: "A World Without War" (2 hrs 4 min)


The 6 disc set is not heavy on extra features but the few extras that are included are certainly worth watching.

On the first disc, there is a 36 minute making "The War" featurette. We see the long process that Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and their crew had to endure to get to the final product. One of the more incredible aspects of this featurette is the fact that they had to virtually re-create the sound for all the archival footage that they had for this film. Burns even mentions the fact that the sound took an additional year to finish even after the actual documentary had been completed. We also get an inside look at what inspired Burns and Novick to do the documentary as well as an inside look at Wynton Marsalis and the creation of his musical score.

Also included on the first disc is an audio commentary on the first episode ("A Necessary War") by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Burns and Novick add even more with regards to the interviews and different stories they had during the arduous task of making the film. Novick and Burns also provide a commentary on the third disc ("Pride of Our Nation episode) that is equally as interesting to listen to.

Additional extras on the first disc are a photo gallery and additional biographies from those involved in the interviews.

Disc 6 contains the rest of the extra features on the DVD. 24 minutes of deleted scenes (Burns narrates these himself) as well as 55 minutes of additional scenes that didn't make it to the final cut. Both the deleted scenes and additional scenes are worth watching and I found them all equally as interesting as the interviews and scenes that made it in the final cut.



The documentary is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and looks fairly good throughout the course of the documentary. Since a good majority of the footage seen is archival, one would expect it to look grainy and scratched up. Nevertheless, I think the transfer is quite good and the vintage photographs look very good throughout.

The audio transfer is solid but I did feel like the bass drops in a few of the scenes here and there. There weren't any huge occurrences of it but I felt in some of the interviews, the sound seemed to fade. Nonetheless, the audio aspect of the documentary is definitely one of the stronger aspects of the DVD. A Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mix is available to choose from.


The DVD set is no doubt one that is worth purchasing for those who are fascinated with World War II. Most people may think that they have seen everything that they can from this war but this documentary proves otherwise. Burns even mentions the fact that he wanted to avoid showing the generic "celebrities" of the war and instead focuses on these four small towns across America. The DVD also mentions the fact that nearly 1000 veterans from this war die daily so it is important to tell the stories of these people who fought during this incredible war. Burns and Novick do a fantastic job of telling the stories from these four quintessential American towns.