The Conservative Film, “The Hanoi Hilton”

Revolving around life in the notorious Hoa Le Prison in 1960s Vietnam, Lionel Chetwynd‘s The Hanoi Hilton (1987) launches a strong assault on Communists and the New Left’s anti-anti-Communism of yesteryear. It pays homage to American POWs, tortured until they “broke,” in the prison.

The film’s characters are not fully convincing and sometimes they are viewed sentimentally, but there is never a dull moment and THH can be moving. It is slightly puzzling when Lt. Cmdr. Williamson (Michael Moriarty) asserts to the prison major (Aki Aleong) that the POWs not only survived the prison, admirably, but also “won” against their captors. Weren’t the POWs forced to provide the North Vietnamese with useful information every time they broke under torture? Is this really winning? In any case, I like Chetwynd’s film. Though flawed, it is inspired and conservative.

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