|Five Came Back|
|Based on||Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War|
by Mark Harris
|Directed by||Laurent Bouzereau|
|Narrated by||Meryl Streep|
|Theme music composer||Thomas Newman|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||3 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||59-69 minutes|
|Original release||March 31, 2017|
Five Came Back is an American documentary based on the 2014 book Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by journalist Mark Harris. It was released as a stand-alone documentary in New York and Los Angeles, and as a three-part series on Netflix, on March 31, 2017.
The documentary focuses on five directors – John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens – whose war-related works are analysed by modern filmmakers, respectively Paul Greengrass, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and Lawrence Kasdan. Meryl Streep, who serves as narrator, won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator for her performance.
On February 9, 2021 Netflix added all of the propaganda movies featured into a new series called Five Came Back: The Reference Films.
Five Came Back explores the experiences of five U.S. film directors – John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens – and their frontline work during the Second World War. It draws on over 100 hours of archival footage and is narrated by Meryl Streep. Each modern director discusses the impact and legacies of one of the five earlier directors: Steven Spielberg (Wyler), Francis Ford Coppola (Huston), Guillermo del Toro (Capra), Paul Greengrass (Ford), and Lawrence Kasdan (Stevens).
Netflix is also streaming the 13 documentaries discussed in the film:
The film was based on the 2014 book of the same name by Mark Harris. The filmmakers studied more than 100 hours of newsreel and archival footage, and more than 40 documentaries and training films created by the five directors during the war. They also reviewed 50 studio films by the directors and more than 30 hours of raw footage from their war films. Director Laurent Bouzereau, who has extensive experience documenting films and directors, introduced the idea of interviewing five current directors for the project.
Meryl Streep recorded the narration for the documentary on January 17, 2017, the same day she received her 20th Oscar nomination (for Florence Foster Jenkins).
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"The Mission Begins"||Laurent Bouzereau||Mark Harris||March 31, 2017|
|The series looks at the backgrounds of the five directors as World War II begins and their motives for helping the war effort. John Ford's The Battle of Midway was approved directly by President Franklin D. Roosevelt while Frank Capra fights to get Why We Fight made.|
|2||"Combat Zones"||Laurent Bouzereau||Mark Harris||March 31, 2017|
|The directors learn their vision for the films is not always permissible by the U.S. government. Wyler is shocked by the racism he encounters against African American soldiers and refused to make a film recruiting black soldiers. Meanwhile, the films' racist depiction of the Japanese versus human depiction of the Germans causes worry for the War Department, which at that time planned to redistribute the Japanese-American population from internment camps into towns across the United States.|
|3||"The Price of Victory"||Laurent Bouzereau||Mark Harris||March 31, 2017|
|The five directors return to Hollywood after the war but are forever haunted by what they saw. Ford goes on a drinking bender after filming the carnage at D-Day. Stevens is wholly unprepared for the horrors of Dachau and realizes he is not there to film propaganda but to capture evidence of crimes against humanity. Wyler, who lost his hearing during the war, fears his career is over. Huston chronicles soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder in the film Let There Be Light, only to have it suppressed by the U.S. government.|
Five Came Back has largely received critical acclaim. It has a 97% approval rating based on 37 reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the series 3.5 stars out of 4, writing, "Arguably the best documentary ever made about Hollywood and wartime, Five Came Back is nirvana for movie lovers and a real eye-opener for anyone new to the subject." David Sims of The Atlantic praised the series' relevance today, and stated that it should have been longer: "Harris's book recognized that Hollywood often shapes our perception of reality more than we know, and that the recruitment of these directors by the U.S. military intertwined the film industry with sometimes-dangerous assumptions of truth and realism. Five Came Back is, in the end, a compelling examination of propaganda—its purpose, its effectiveness, and its drawbacks. These are all things that are worth keeping in mind in 2017, just as they were many decades ago."
Allison Shoemaker, who reviewed each episode separately for The A.V. Club, gave "The Mission Begins" a B+ and graded both "Combat Zones" and "The Price of Victory" an A. Reviewing the final episode, she writes, "It comes as no surprise that the conclusion to this remarkable series packs a wallop—the previous episode ends with D-Day on the horizon, after all—but what is surprising is how gracefully Laurent Bouzereau and Mark Harris link these monstrous and stunning events and truths to the art which followed them. Does tying Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life to George Stevens' experiences at Dachau seem like a bit of a stretch? Sure, but somehow, it isn't. George Bailey's story is also Capra's, and Ford's, and Wyler's. There's much that this hour makes clear, but chief among that crowded group is this: the experiences of and footage captured by these men changed the United States, the world, and the directors themselves in irrevocable ways."
John Anderson in The Wall Street Journal writes: "Overall, the series is much like its story: mythic, adventurous, romantic. And real." Brian Tallerico, writing for RogerEbert.com, called it a "must-see" and a "cinephile and historian's dream come true."
In The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg writes, "Above all, Five Came Back is an invitation to see more: It's hard to watch it without wanting to visit (or revisit) Wyler's Mrs. Miniver or Ford's They Were Expendable. It's further proof, if any were needed, that these men weren't simply creating propaganda, but art that would endure."
Kristin Hunt of Slashfilm questioned why the series did not address Ford's anti-semitism or Capra's admiration of Benito Mussolini, but was generally positive, writing, "Five Came Back is a testament to the power of cinema, and the moral implications that come with it. Was all this propaganda permissible? The documentary is sometimes afraid to truly grapple with that question. But when it does, it's gripping stuff." Peter Debruge, chief film critic for Variety, was less enthusiastic, criticizing the series for leaving out the rich original research in Harris' book for the thoughts of the five current Hollywood directors, whose purpose he felt was merely a promotional gag.
|2017||Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Narrator||Meryl Streep (Episode: "The Price of Victory")||Won|||
|Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special||Jeremy Turner (Episode: "The Price of Victory")||Nominated|
|3rd Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards||Best Limited Documentary Series (TV/Streaming)||Five Came Back||Nominated|||
|18th Golden Trailer Awards||Best Documentary (TV Spot/Trailer/Teaser for a series)||Five Came Back||Nominated|||
|2018||American Cinema Editors||Best Edited Non-Theatrical Documentary||Will Znidaric (Episode: "The Price of Victory")||Won|||
|11th Annual Cinema Eye Honors Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Nonfiction Filmmaking||Laurent Bouzereau (director/producer), John Battsek (producer), Ben Cotner (Executive Producer), Adam Del Deo (Executive Producer), and Lisa Nishimura (Executive Producer)||Nominated|||
|65th Motion Picture Sound Editors GOLDEN REEL AWARDS||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Single Presentation||Trip Brock (supervising sound editor), Bruce Stubblefield (supervising dialogue editor), Demetri Evdoxiadis (sound effects editor), Raymond Park (sound effects editor), Zheng Jia (sound effects editor), Abhay Manusmare (music editor)||Nominated|||