Substantial re-editing would greatly benefit “In the Shadow of the Blade,” a frequently affecting docu that inadvertently diminishes the impact of its potent subject matter through repetition and awkward structure. Oddly enough, overlong pic might also work better if expanded into a multi-part niche-cable nonfiction series. In current form, however, pic likely will be limited to fest and nontheatrical landing zones.
Helmer Patrick Fries and crew follow the 10,000-mile, cross-country tour of a newly restored UH-1H “Huey” helicopter, the vehicle used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War for troop transport, combat support and medical evacuation. Flight crew visits small towns and major cities to give vets another chance to see — and fly in — the vehicle that brought them into and out of danger during war. Family and friends of killed-in-action soldiers also board the aircraft, seeking closure after years of mourning loved ones who took their last rides on Hueys. A former Army nurse recalls treating an orphaned Vietnamese baby who was transported to her camp from a burnt-out village. In pic’s most moving sequence, the nurse is reunited with the now-adult survivor by the restored Huey’s crew.