On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers embarked on what was to be the first attack on the Japanese mainland by US forces during World War II; although the attack didn't result in a major strategic victory, the boost to US morale and the ensuing aftermath of the attack would put what became to be known as the Doolittle Raid into the history books. "Missions That Changed the World: The Doolittle Raid" was a program originally produced for the Military Channel and over the course, of four, 45-minute episodes takes viewers through history from the genesis of the raid to the ensuing legacy, including on-camera interviews with surviving members of the mission. Whether you're a history buff or not, the program is a remarkably well-paced and insightful offering at a solitary moment in history.
Narrated evenly by Gary Sinise, "The Doolittle Raid" is the quickest, three hours you'll spend viewing a non-fiction based program. The first episode, giving background on the bombers themselves as well as the buildup to the mission feels like the opening segment of most one-hour documentaries and before you know it, the series has progressed into the second episode introducing viewers to the man behind the mission, the late Jimmy Doolittle. Science and engineering aficionados will get a big kick out of the technical content of this episode, including how a sub-one dollar bomb sight was found to be preferable to the $10,000 top-of-the-line sight of the times. The final two episodes feel like one cohesive story, covering the actual raid itself and the aftermath, including the story of the 8 POWs from the mission and the post-mission legacy.
As a viewer who went into the series only knowing the vague details of the mission, the series does a tremendous job of giving one multiple perspectives without becoming too technical nor pandering with false drama. There is an air of reverence towards the men who courageously took on this mission and the series continually lets those who lived it tell their story when possible. "The Doolittle Raid" is a very fine piece of documentary series filmmaking; its not flashy by any means and sometimes one gets the feeling that the archival images being used are a tad repetitive, but at the end of the day, every man who played a part in the raid is presented as an equal and its refreshing to see the series not get sidetracked about making the focus solely on Doolittle himself. "The Doolittle Raid" does what a documentary should: appeal to a wide range of audiences while not sacrificing an ounce of integrity.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is well enough serviceable for the series' nature. Colors are on the warm side and a bit intense, while there's some mild artifacting. Detail is on the average side, although archival footage looks quite striking.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is clean and well balanced, pushing the thematic music to the background when appropriate and ensuring neither narration nor interview dialogue fight one another for the spotlight. English SDH subtitles are included.
The bonus features include a timeline of Doolittle's life and a very engaging, extended interview with Edward Saylor, an Engineer Gunner on one of the planes. There's also a 12-page printed booklet providing some supplementary information.
The expert pacing and condensed informational content of "The Doolittle Raid" makes it a program worth viewing for all audiences. History buffs will easily want to add this to their collection as it shines well above any disposable one-hour program from The History Channel could hope to aspire to, while those merely interested in expanding their horizons will give this at minimum, a rent. Highly Recommended.