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Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (2004)

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A documentary on Senator John Kerry's Navy tour of duty in Vietnam, his contributions to the peace movement that followed, and the ultimate shape of his future political career.


George Butler


Douglas Brinkley (book), Joseph Dorman



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Credited cast:
David Alston David Alston ... Himself - Gunner's Mate, PCF-94, Vietnam Veteran
Dan Barbiero Dan Barbiero ... Himself - Yale Roommate, Vietnam Veteran
Douglas Brinkley ... Himself - Official Kerry Biographer
Harvey Bundy Harvey Bundy ... Himself - Yale Roommate
Dick Cavett ... Himself (archive footage)
Max Cleland ... Himself - Former Democratic Senator (Georgia)
Bestor Cram ... Himself - VVAW Anti-War Activist, Vietnam Veteran (as Bester Cram)
Walter Cronkite ... Himself (archive footage)
Chris Gregory Chris Gregory ... Himself - VVAW Anti-War Activist, Vietnam Veteran
Richard Holbrooke ... Himself - Former US Ambassador to the UN
Lyndon Baines Johnson ... Himself (archive footage) (as Lyndon Johnson)
John F. Kennedy ... Himself (archive footage)
Bob Kerrey Bob Kerrey ... Himself - Former Democratic Senator (Nebraska) (as Sen. Bob Kerrey)
John Kerry ... Himself (archive footage)
Joe Klein ... Himself - Writer


A documentary on Senator John Kerry's Navy tour of duty in Vietnam, his contributions to the peace movement that followed, and the ultimate shape of his future political career.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some men are changed by history, others make it.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images of war and some dialogue


Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

1 October 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Tour of Duty See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$279,219, 3 October 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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User Reviews

Character Building
9 October 2004 | by mpofarrellSee all my reviews

Watching George Butler's riveting documentary about John Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam is an ineffably sad but ultimately inspiring viewing experience. Using archival photos, super 8 film and television video footage from the Vietnam War era, director Butler weaves a tale of one man's heroic journey into a real life Heart of Darkness more immediate and powerful than anything Francis Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" was able to muster. Beginning with his student days at Yale, John Kerry possessed qualities of leadership that belied most young men of his generation. His heroic actions in Vietnam are amply described by fellow comrades-in-arms, one of whom gives an electrifying account of his rescue by Kerry under the most perilous conditions imaginable.

The most revelatory part of this movie deals with Kerry's homecoming. Vietnam veterans were not greeted with a hero's welcome; in most cases the public treated returning soldiers with indifference, even revulsion. John Kerry's compassion and fortitude in working toward giving his fellow soldiers a place of dignity in a cold and uncaring world is heroic beyond measure. GOING UPRIVER has been described by some as one long campaign add for a presidential candidate. That may be so, but if this movie is a shameless plug for electing Kerry to the Presidency, it is also a heartrending social commentary of a time that is inexorably fading into a distant American past. That past , in order to be kept alive, needs movies such as GOING UPRIVER to remind American citizens that the foibles of war repeat themselves unto the next generation. The young, eloquent John Kerry speaking on behalf of his fellow veterans is an unforgettable image. GOING UPRIVER is a mourning for the past as well as an alarum for the future.

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