Soldiers of Paint is a documentary that focuses on the annual D-Day paintball event in Oklahoma. People come from all over to recreate the battle of Normandy, complete with simulated beach landings, tank assaults and mobile command posts.
Lest you think this is some casual weekend warrior paintball fun, which it initially might be for most of the ground troops, the film shows how much attention is put into creating the battlefield, and how much planning the various commanders do in the months leading up to the event. The Allied forces, for example, hire a local pilot to fly over the battlefield and spot enemy troop movement and vehicles, while the German side engages in espionage to figure out what the Allied forces are planning.
Because this isn’t about just reenacting a battle; it’s a re-creation, and the outcome isn’t predetermined. If the Allied forces aren’t on their game, they could lose. The German side wants to win; not to glorify the Nazi regime or anything like that, but because it’s a battle, and everyone wants to give their all and come out victorious.
Thankfully the filmmakers took our potential for confusion into account, when it came to figuring out who is who on the battlefield, and gave the image a blue tint, when showing the Allied perspective, and a red tint for the German. The result is a quick visual shorthand to keep you on board with whatever is going on; which side is attempting to capture the flag or take an objective.
What is most impressive about the documentary is how it manages to turns a paintball event into a suspenseful war film. The second half of the film is pretty much the entire D-Day battle, and it’s an entertaining and intense experience. Since we don’t know how it is going to end, score watching is as exciting as at any sporting event.
I didn’t think the film could stay as engaging as it is for the full running time, but I was wrong. Since the first half is mainly setup for the battle, I just didn’t imagine the battle itself could fill out the whole second half and not get repetitious, but it more than does the job, even quickening the pace and racing by. Not to say the film is slow in the open, but there is definitely a gear shift when the fighting gets underway, as one could expect.
Overall, Soldiers of Paint was a fun documentary to experience. I didn’t know that D-Day could be respectfully transformed into a paintball event in Oklahoma, but it can, and it looks like it only gets better as each year goes by.
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