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The Independent Critic

Eric St. John, Joseph Hieu, Pierre Nguyen
Fred Koster
Rated PG-13
105 Mins.

 "Ride the Thunder" a Powerful, Revealing Docu-Drama  

A docu-drama based upon the book of the same name, writer/director Fred Koster's Ride the Thunder tells the true story of a friendship between American American Marine legend John Ripley (Eric St. John) and Vietnamese hero Le Ba Binh (Joseph Hieu). The two fought together during the Vietnam War and Ride the Thunder follows their time fighting together and the time after Vietnam falls and Ripley returns home to a divided America, while Le Ba Binh becomes imprisoned in a communist re-education camp.

A popular film in screenings nationwide and a film destined to deeply resonate with veterans, families of veterans and pretty much anyone who has an emotion, Ride the Thunder is an honest film that manages to tell a story not readily familiar even to those who think they've heard every story possible about Vietnam. While there is, at least I'd say, an "agenda" of sorts with the film it's presented in a non-histrionic and authentic way even as certain aspects of the story will likely anger many.

Both St. John and Hieu do a nice job of bringing their characters to life within the framework of a story that is part documentary, part drama and nearly all involving.

While rated PG-13, Ride the Thunder focuses less on the violence and more on the truth-telling and stories to be told. It's an approach that may feel soft to some, but for most I think it will be an even more immersive experience intellectually and emotionally. A quick perusal of the Ride the Thunder will reveal just how much the film has resonated with those whose real life experiences it covers. Over and over again, Koster is given credit for crafting a film that tells the truth rather than tells the stories told in so many textbooks.

For more information on Ride the Thunder, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic