TV Club: Five Came Back traces the transformation of an artist to an instrument of war

In times of peril, some people feel compelled (or are, in fact, legally compelled) to pick up a weapon. There’s no shortage of guns and bombs in Five Came Back, writer Mark Harris and director Laurent Bouzereau‘s three-part wartime documentary, but the weapon in focus is of a very different sort. This is a series about the power of a camera, particularly when there’s an artist peering through the lens.

Adapted by Harris from his book of the same name, Five Came Back has its own cameras and lenses, of course. In the first episode, “The Mission Begins,” the series lays the groundwork for what’s to come, establishing the power of film to stir emotion (and to manipulate others) and underlining how connected moviegoing and current events were in the 1930s and ‘40s. To see a film was to melt into George Stevens’ Swing Time after …

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