Review of The Untold History of the United States (2012)

Moving picture, 10 hours

Seen in 2016.

The political history of the USA from WW2 through Obama’s first term, told by Oliver Stone.

The selection and perspective are quite good. However, Stone being the author of JFK (1991), it is not surprising that he sometimes veers off the path of parsimonious and credible historiography. In the last episode, he cranks it up to 11, visually quoting Star Wars (1977) and saying: “But as a popular series of Star Wars movies shows, a nation dominating the world with its technology will soon become a tyranny”, at which point the Emperor interjects, to Darth Vader: “Rise, my friend.”

Throughout, Stone uses music and cinema to seduce the viewer and make the story about mythologies, ultimately zeroing in on the mythology of American exceptionalism. It’s entertaining, but greater depth could have been achieved by drier means. Sometimes the method is simply distracting, such as when bad actors read the dirty letters of dead leaders, massacring the various “foreign” accents applied to the translations.

Because it is sexy and mythologizing instead of strictly credible, I can see episodes of this serving as effective primers for Delta Green adventures. The form itself certainly speaks about the nation, so steeped in glamour that it delivers even a critical message to itself in this glamorous form.

moving picture non-fiction series