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'Brothers': Kerry Campaign Commercial

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 3, 2004; Page WE38

For a feature film, this clearly partisan documentary about the Swift boat crew that served under John Kerry in Vietnam is pretty slight, but for a campaign commercial -- which is what it feels like -- it's pretty long.

More effective as the latter than the former, "Brothers in Arms" goes a long way toward dispelling some of the accusations by some veterans that have been plaguing Kerry of late. Although the Democratic presidential candidate himself appears as a talking head in Paul Alexander's film, the bulk of "Brothers" is devoted to hearing the sometimes emotional stories of Kerry's four surviving crew members, all of whose recollections more or less jibe with those that the Kerry camp have been replaying again and again in the media. But hearing the now graying and paunchy men -- David Alston, Mike Medeiros, Del Sandusky and Gene Thorson -- reminisce about derring-do while trying to avoid getting shot is less moving than hearing them talk about the troubles (such as alcoholism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide) that some of them encountered after returning to the United States. In fact, listening to Sandusky speak of how he called Kerry up one day when he was considering killing himself, and of how the senator immediately dispatched a staffer to check Sandusky into a VA hospital, is a lot more powerful than hearing the opposing camps argue about whether and under what circumstances Kerry plucked a fellow American soldier out of the river in Vietnam.

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BROTHERS IN ARMS (Unrated, 68 minutes) --Contains nothing offensive. At Visions Bar Noir.

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