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Heaven & Earth 1993
Description: Le Ly lives in a tiny Vietnamese village whose serenity is shattered when fight breaks out. Caught between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese army, the village is all but destroyed. After being both brutalized and raped, Le Ly resolves to flee. She leaves for the city, surviving desperate situations, but surviving nonetheless. Eventually she meets a U.S. Marine called Steve Butler who treats her kindly and says her he would like to be married -- maybe to her.
Released: 07 Jan 1994 Director: Oliver Stone Writers: Le Ly Hayslip (book), Jay Wurts (book), Le Ly Hayslip (book), James Hayslip (book), Oliver Stone (screenplay) Actors: Haing S. Ngor, Bussaro Sanruck, Supak Pititam, Joan Chen Genres: Action, Biography, Drama, History, War
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Heaven & Earth Reviews:

As he did with his first two Vietnam films, "Platoon" and "Born on the 4th of July", Oliver Stone creates a strong tale of the devastation of the Vietnam War. What makes this film so unique, both from Stone's earlier work and virtually each another American film about the Vietnam War, is that "Heaven and Earth" is said from the perspective of a Vietnamese woman. This film is based on two ebooks of memoirs written by Le Ly Hayslip, a Vietnamese girl who grew up in a easy farming village in central Vietnam but whose life --- and those of most Vietnamese people, we can infer --- is turned upside-down by the madness of the Vietnam War.Strictly as a movie, this is a nice but not nice film. Even at almost 2 1/2 hours, the structure is a bit stilted in order to accommodate such an extensive story. The first 30 mins are mostly voice-overs and the film doesn't pick up steam until later, when scenes are allowed to flow for extended amounts of time and we become caught in the drama. Tommy Lee Jones gives other brutally realistic performance as a lifetime military boy who can't leave the fight behind. Hiep Thi Ly is okay as Le Ly Hayslip; not Tommy Lee Jones caliber acting, but she competently plays a very hard role. I read she was an amateur actress only selected after an extensive casting call, and I'm glad that they decided to go with an current young Vietnamese girl instead of selecting a generic asian actress. It might not create a difference to most, but it certainly felt more "real" to me with an authentic Vietnamese-American in the main role. Oliver Stone shows his mastery of mood and camerawork as he jumps from the beauty of the Vietnam countryside, to the ravages of war, to the shocking (for Le Ly) wealth of suburban America. The film occasionally drags but overall I'd still give it an 8 out of 10 because it's such a strong and necessary addition to the cinematic depiction of the Vietnam War.The film also inspired me to read the 2 ebooks ("When Heaven and World Changed Places" and "Child of War, Girl of Peace") it was based on. Stone had to compress many happenings in order to fit the run time; for example, the Tommy Lee Jones hero is a fabrication based on 3 various boys (and probably meshed into one boy as much for the drama such an explosive hero provides as for the time constraints), while her ebooks spend extensive time on all 3 relationships. However, the dialogue for few key scenes were taken almost word for word from her books, and I thought it captured the spirit of the storyline remarkably well, especially for a major studio movie. I highly suggest anyone interested in the movie or in the fight to read these books, and I commend Oliver Stone for making a trilogy of necessary movies not just for cinema, but for American history.


Oliver Stone has everytime had a unique bond with Vietnam. He is a veteran of that fight and the theme about a veteran trying to cope with his fight experiences is a topics that comes back in few of his movies. This is the last film in his Vietnam trilogy. His first film was "Platoon" (1986), his second "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and the third one was "Heaven & Earth" (1993).In Heaven & World he says the real storyline of a Vietnamese village woman who survives a life of suffering and hardship during and after the Vietnam war. Before she meets and marries the U.S. marine Steve Butler, she already has had an whole life behind her. She once fled for the violence of the Viet Cong, leaving her farming village for Saigon together with her mother. But later she disgraced herself by becoming pregnant with her fresh master's kid and as an unmarried mother, she tried to create a living by being a freedom fighter, a hustler and sometimes a prostitute. As later as they are married, they transport to the USA, but life on the another side of the ocean certainly isn't as excellent as she imagined it to be...Some folks tell that it is a nice thing that Oliver Stone has finally made a film that shows the Vietnamese perspective of the fight and I agree, but only to a certain extend. It's real that we only receive to see films that present the American side of the storyline and that we need another films that give us a broader view on the matter, but "Heaven & Earth" isn't the only 'reversed' Vietnam film. Perhaps not many folks know this, but the French film "Indochine" (1992) does approximately the same. The main difference with "Heaven & Earth" is that it doesn't talk about the 'American' period, but about the French colonial period that proceeded it and in which time the Vietnam fight really started (The French had almost lost all their wars when the Americans came to support them and thereby got fully stuck into the fight themselves...). But it is true, Oliver Stone has done a great job with this movie. He has made it an interesting hero study, with the fight everytime show in the background. The acting is very nice and I don't think there should have been a better actor than Tommy Lee Jones to enjoy the role of Major Steve Butler. The another actors all did a nice job too, in fact, I might tell that Stone has had an perfect cast to work with and he probably got the most and the greatest out of them.If there is one lesser mission to this movie, although only a tiny one, than it gotta be the language. The Vietnamese all begin by speaking almost excellent English to every other, but when they speak to Americans their English is poor, yet when they speak to every another in front of an American its in Vietnamese. I trust it would have been better if Stone had selected to allow the Vietnamese speak their own language all the time and to speak with an accent when speaking to the Americans. But as I already said, I only see this as a minor feature and it certainly didn't spoil the nice times that I had with this movie. This is an underrated film that deserves to be seen by a nice audience. I give it a 7.5/10 at least, perhaps even an 8/10.


I don't understand why most folks don't appreciate this movie. I guess one reason is that it's not simple to look at your own people, US soldiers, as enemies, or at your country - in the final - as the land of fatty meaninglessnes. Or maybe they were expecting something various from Stone, something more than that history - not so unusual as someone observed - of a easy vietnamese country girl. The point, for me, is that this is not a movie about the vietnam war, which is only the background. If you create the effort to forget the vietnam war, its historical and cultural legacy, to avoid being on the side of one of the armies (maybe is easier for me, being an italian), you'll explore one of the most intense film about the family and the bonds with the world where you belong. Stone through the storyline of this easy woman succeeded in saying the storyline of whole humankind, analizing those which are its roots, its ties, its hopes, its condemnations. Honestly, one of the greatest films I've ever seen. Sincere, profound, touching. True.



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