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History Channel Presents Washington the Warrior, The

A&E Video // Unrated // August 29, 2006
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted September 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
George Washington is one of America's most recognizable faces, appearing in every American history book and on the face of every dollar bill. Though one of the forefathers of the nation, very little is known about the man behind the myth. Before he was America's first president, he was a soldier. A daring documentary from The History Channel, Washington The Warrior is presented with the intent of giving the viewer insight into Washington's military career. The film follows him through his first officer's commission in the Virginia militia, culminating in an early error in judgement that resulted in a 17 year retirement from military service. From there we watch as a man older and wiser is called upon to lead the American Revolution, turning a haphazard, woeful band of everyday men into an army capable of challenging and defeating Great Britain's fearsome forces- at that time the greatest Army in the world.

Being something of a history buff I am embarrassed to admit that I know very, very little when it comes to George Washington, other than what most Americans have been taught in the classrooms during our youth- and when comparing that knowledge to the likes of presidents such as, say, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Kennedy it is pitifully lacking. Washington The Warrior makes up for this to some degree, beginning with his ride into the Ohio territory in order to deliver a message to the French, whom I presume had intentions on settling the area; a ride on which George certainly did some growing up, twice nearly losing his life on the return journey. Washington kept a diary of the trip which was widely published and made him something of a celebrity. Because of this he rose in rank and it was during that period he makes some rather critical mistakes, recklessly firing upon French couriers in the process of performing the same task he had taken before, and at the onset of the French and Indian War instructing his troops to erect a fort on low, level ground that was better described as a deathtrap for his men.

After a demotion, Washington happened upon a chance at redemption a year later, assuming command of the Virginia militia after the commanding officer is killed in an ambush. Calm and cool, Washington takes charge of the troops, fearlessly orchestrating a calculated retreat to safety while the air is filled with bullets.Again a commander, he helped to drive the French from the Ohio territory.

A fifth-generation Virginian, Washington left the military, at age 27 taking on the role of farmer on his immense Mount Vernon plantation which honed his skills as a director and leader- one commentary likens the skills he learned during that period to those of a CEO running an immense business. We don't get much information about this period, presumably because the filmmakers' desires are to keep the viewer focused on Washington's war years. Washington marries Mary Custis, who is the wealthiest woman in the area and affords the family a very comfortable lifestyle. The hardest personal tragedy during that period is the death of Washington's daughter, who suffered from sudden epileptic fits and eventually died from one such violent episode. The program touches on the disdain with which Britain treats their colonial brethren, making rather arrogant, pitiful trades of second hand and damaged goods in exchange for top quality tobacco and the likes.The documentary begins to pick up the pace once again with a meeting of the Second Continental Congress, when Washington- dressed in his military uniform and obviously wanting the position- is chosen to command the Revolutionary Army.

Narrated by Stacy Keach, this 100 minute documentary as a whole is rather ambitious, even for a well versed company such as The History Channel. While things do seem to be a trifle idyllic- battlefields are a bit too lush and pristine, and soldiers' uniforms are invariably too prim and clean- they do manage to capture the enormity of the Revolutionary War pretty well, with a mix of CGI and battlefield reenactors. Though things do appear to be too pretty, as far as period authenticity is concerned they also look very accurate. Washington has the look and feel of real man here, not the soft looking iconic older gentleman depicted countless times on stage, screen, and paintings but as a young, virile vibrant man with grit, poise and sheer strength of will guiding him in the quest to give birth to a nation free of oppression.



Video-

Aspect ratio here is 1.78:1 widescreen.For the most part the documentary looks very good, if at times a trifle soft. Colors are rendered well with lush reds, greens and fairly deep blacks.

Audio-

Audio track is stereo 2.0 and is clear and easy to understand. Were this a more dramatic presentation one might have wished for a fuller use of surrounds, but its a fine documentary track.

Extras-

Behind The Scenes "History In The Making"- As the title indicates, a short but engaging companion piece on the filming of the documentary.



Final Thoughts-

Probably the most iconic of all the forefathers of America, this is a study on George Washington the likes of which I have never come across before; while much of the information here will likely be regarded as common knowledge among more learned history buffs, a more casual student such as myself will find plenty of new facts and insights here. Giving the viewer a portrayal of the nation's first President as a man- capable of mistakes, overcoming personal and military tragedies and defeats, gaining insight, experience and resourceful resolve in order to persevere leading the fight to gain independence is quite fascinating. Recommended.
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