A documentary directed by Pascal Vuong. Rated G. Opens today at the Omnimax Theatre at the Telus World of Science
While Saving Private Ryan threw you disorientingly into the bullet bath that was Omaha Beach, the new D-Day: Normandy 1944 charts out the manoeuvre that changed the course of World War II in meticulous detail. We’re talking animated maps, archival photos, computer-generated and dramatic re-enactments, and aerial shots of the territory in question—all spread over the Omnimax Theatre’s giant screen. Yes, it’s a military-strategy nut’s dream.
The multifaceted film is meant to deconstruct the momentous Allied attack, illuminating it for a new generation. And it does. It’s just that director Pascal Vuong’s multipronged approach, though it certainly looks good, can seem herky-jerky as it bounces between ideas. For instance, you might just be getting a feel for why it was urgent to attack Adolf Hitler’s army on the western front while he was tied up with Russia, when there’s a sudden cut to the intermittent animated pop-up book that highlights the five “keys to victory” (the Jeep and the two-and-a-half-ton truck for instance). For something that tries so hard to jazz up dry material, it’s funny the film chose solemn-voiced Tom Brokaw to narrate. The London Symphony Orchestra provides the music.
Still, few films have detailed the logistics behind the complex, elaborately plotted-out mission better than this. So it should make a captivating history lesson for a younger generation (with “sand animation”—literally crafted from grains—depicting battlefield violence in nongory ways), but will also reveal intricacies for adults who know the story (including the fact that it had to be timed perfectly to both the tide and moonlight). With an eye to edu-tainment, D-Day has made an event with massive scope into something tangible and yet moving, to the point the aerial shots late in the film over “row upon row” of crosses in Normandy have real meaning.