Like the recovery mission it chronicles, “Until They Are Home” is a noble but relatively uneventful experience. Following up on his 2009 Military Channel special “Return to Tarawa,” documentarian Steven C. Barber tags along with members of the U.S. military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) as they attempt to identify and bring home WWII soldiers’ remains from the Pacific atoll of Tarawa. TV-style docu, narrated by Kelsey Grammer and featuring an original song by country artist Clint Black, is scheduled for an Oscar-qualifying run in Pasadena.
The 1943 Battle of Tarawa was a particularly bloody three-day showdown in the Pacific Theater, resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 U.S. Marines (and many more Japanese soldiers and laborers). Soldiers had no choice but to inter the fallen in mass graves, which remain hidden in the now densely populated area. JPAC officials face an uphill challenge to uncover the locations, and Barber intercuts their struggles with veterans’ accounts. The most interesting element is the use of grisly archival footage from Marine photographer Norman T. Hatch, who also supplied images for 1945 Oscar-winning docu short “With the Marines at Tarawa.”