New HBO Show The Sympathizer: Powerful and Poignant Perspective on the 'Vietnam War'

The "Sympathizer" series shows how events that have been thematized many times in movies and series can still be shown something new and different

by Sededin Dedovic
New HBO Show The Sympathizer: Powerful and Poignant Perspective on the 'Vietnam War'
© Max / YOutube channel

At the end of April 1975, more precisely on April 30, the US Marines carried out the last evacuation from the US Embassy in Vietnam. This historic event marked the end of the multi-year conflict in Vietnam, and the city of Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh, fell under the control of the North Vietnamese army a few hours after the departure of the American soldiers.

It is precisely in these times and circumstances that the new series "Sympathizer" begins, which introduces us to the complex, intriguing events before the fall of Saigon and the challenges faced by its protagonists. 'All wars are fought twice.

The first time on the battlefield, and the second time in memory', tells us the inscription at the end of the series 'Sympathizer', which also reminds us that the war that will be discussed in America is called the Vietnam War, and in Vietnam the American War.

Both of those captions are very appropriate because the series that follows them is about all of that - the war on the battlefield, the war in memory, the Vietnam War, and the American War. A spy thriller and cross-cultural satire that delves into the aftermath and legacy of the Vietnam War, this seven-episode series explores how one man, caught between multiple worlds, juggles his identity and loyalties as a compassionate double agent.

HBO Show The Sympathizer© Max / YOutube channel

The action of the series begins four months before the end of the war, when the city of Saigon has already begun to sink into chaos under the threat of the victory of the army of communist North Vietnam.

In this environment of uncertainty, we meet a mysterious intelligence officer known by the code name Captain. He is part of the army of South Vietnam, directly subordinate to the General, but at the same time he works as a spy for the communist army of North Vietnam.

His collaboration with Claude, a CIA operative, further complicates his situation. As the fall of Saigon approaches, the Captain's role becomes crucial - the General issues an order to compile a list of people who will be evacuated to the US, but there is no room for everyone, which puts the Captain in the position of master of life and death.

HBO Show The Sympathizer© Max / YOutube channel

The theme of loyalty, moral dilemmas and political intrigues is reflected through the character of the Captain. He is torn between his loyalty to his homeland and his secret mission for the Communist Party.

His struggle with his own moral principles and destiny is the central motif of the series. Through his story, the author explores how devotion to a totalitarian regime can blind an individual, even after the war is over. The captain is faced with difficult decisions and becomes a symbol of the internal struggle that takes place within the framework of spy games and political turmoil.

HBO Show The Sympathizer© Max / YOutube channel

Through the hand of director Park Chan-wook, the "Sympathizer" series gains dynamism and depth. Each episode contains a special director's stamp and colorful scenes that draw the viewer into the atmosphere of the time and space in which the action takes place.

For example, a scene in a converted cinema, which serves as a makeshift torture stage, provides a disturbing insight into the brutality of war and the moral decline of the characters. Likewise, the arrival of the General and his crew in the US marks a turn in the tone of the series, where dark humor often appears as a way of dealing with the traumas of the past.

The cast, led by Robert Downey Jr., delivers outstanding performances that bring the characters and their inner conflicts to life. The cast includes Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khanh, Toun Li, Fanxin, Wai Li, Kai Duyen, Cue Chin, Dai Nguyen, Alan Trong, Emmy Award winner Sandra Oh and of course the aforementioned Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr., who plays multiple roles, adding layers and dynamics to the story.

Hoa Xuandea as the Captain also provides a convincing interpretation of a complex character struggling with moral dilemmas and personal tragedies. Through its intriguing plot and deep characters, "The Sympathizer" series explores the unexplored aspects of the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

The author successfully combines the elements of a spy thriller, a political drama and a war epic to create an engaging story that will intrigue viewers. In addition, Park Chan-wook's directorial touch adds aesthetic value to the series, making it visually attractive and emotionally powerful.

'Sympathizer' is at times brutal, murderous, cruel and incredibly anxious. He is also very serious, with deep philosophical, sociological and psychological insights. But most of all - this is an extremely entertaining series. And that regardless of whether you are at all interested in the topic of the Vietnam/American war.