Carrier (2008) Review
(More customer reviews)Owing to a childhood fascination, I've watched pretty much every documentary on carriers produced in the last ten years. A few of them have been Nat Geo productions, and the latest rounds play all the time on the Discovery Channel and the Military Channel. This series beats them all, hands down.
The problem with most documentaries on this subject--or virtually any 'mainstream' docu on military topics, is that the filmmakers get distracted by the whistles, bells, and blinking lights of all the technology. As a result, the documentary lens becomes clouded by all the 'gee-whiz' of the technology and machines. Granted, this sort of perspective has its place. What gets lost, or uncovered, however, is something far more compelling, and that's the human element. A carrier is, as the old saying goes, a city at sea, and it's the lives of the crew that make for real storytelling, not more of the same file footage of missile launches or facts about the latest blocks of the CIWS and the takeoff thrust of an F/A-18 at full military power.
This series focuses on the stories of the crew, and many of them are quite moving. It's hard not to get a lump in the throat when watching how hard these (predominantly) 18- and 19- year olds have to work in order to send aircraft over the bow, or how they're trying to meet the demands of family life from thousands of miles away at sea. Their personal struggles and hopes are the meat of this series.
Production values on this series are quite high. I met the producers at a sneak preview and found that they had shot over 3,000 hours of HD video over the course of a six-month deployment. Working over that time, and with a 17-member production and shooting team, they found the real stories in the nooks and crannies of the ship. The editing, which was done by a team, is also quite good, as is the music design. The net result is a series that has the look and feel of a modern reality series, without any of the sensationalism. In short, it's filmmaking by adults. The assistance of the Navy was also nothing short of remarkable--here on the series some of the characters speak openly about how hard their jobs are, or how they work with gay crewmembers, or how they don't understand the war they're supporting. This internal confliction and confusion, from the words of servicemen and women, makes for real storytelling and makes this series worth recommending above any other on the same topic.
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CARRIER is a character driven, edge-of-your-seat, nonfiction drama as well as a total immersion in the high stakes world of a nuclear aircraft carrier. CARRIER follows a core group of film participants aboard the USS Nimitz, from the admiral of the strike group to the fighter pilots to the youngest sailors, as they navigate personal conflicts around their jobs, families, faith, patriotism, love, the rites of passage and the war on terror.