Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Dan Gvozden



“Stream My Reels” is a weekly column that will feature one recommended streaming title from many different sources (Netflix, OnDemand, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.).

In the past decade there has been a renaissance of wonderfully told documentaries that have pushed the format forward both in terms of style of imagery and narrative form.  This had led to a surge in popularity of the format and as a result an increasingly larger supply of documentaries that are being made.  A lot of this success can be directly attributed to the shrinking size and affordability of digital cameras.  It has allowed filmmakers to move away from the sensitivity of 35mm film, a medium that can be quite restrictive and costly.  Now filmmakers can embed themselves in a situation and film almost endlessly.

Doug-MikeA film that has embraced this sentiment, while still utilizing tape-based recording techniques, is the film Soldiers of Paint, new to Netflix Watch Instant.  Here, filmmakers Mike DeChant, Doug Gritzmacher and crew have embedded themselves into the largest scale paintball battle on the planet to create one of the most action packed documentaries I’ve ever seen.  As 5,000 participants recreate the historic D-Day landing, the filmmakers’ camera bobs and weaves through the action as paintballs whiz by their heads, hands, feet, chests, etc.  Then… SPLAT!  An inappropriately timed paint-filled balloon splatters on the camera lens, just another casualty of war.

Documentaries like this one won’t just succeed based on the zip of their action but on the quality of their characters and narrative.  It is good then that one of Soldiers of Paint‘s greatest resources is its eccentric and lovable characters, many of whom get their own well-constructed subplot to follow.  Whether it is a story about a touching relationship between a father and a son, the pressures of being a commander, the personal, family history that inspires the D-Day recreation, or the unease of being a German in an American recreation of that same D-Day, Soldiers of Paint is constantly telling good and interesting stories in a snappy and engaging way.   Amongst the best of those stories involves the opposing sides’ preparation for war.


The thing that makes this recreation of D-Day different, beyond the paintballs, is that either side could win, Axis or Allies.  The participants take this opportunity as an invitation to operate at an almost fanatical level.  This battlefield is open to all kinds of invention, be it tanks, planes, bazookas, operating bases, landing boats, trenches, and even recreations of French towns.  For the participants this isn’t just a weekend war but one that stretches all year round.  In one hysterical sequence we are witness to the hacking and spying tactics that the teams are utilizing to discover the opposing team’s tactics to war.  This means bugging emails, phones, inventing fake players, and recording Skype conversations.  All is fair in love and war, especially with paintballs.

The filmmakers made so many smart decisions when assembling Soldiers of Paint that make the story easy to follow and get caught up in.  Each opposing side’s viewpoint is tinted a different color to tip of the audience as to who and what we are watching.  This simple idea allows for the chaos of the battlefield to suddenly disappear.  When a victory is imminent it is immediately obvious who is involved and what is occurring.  This allows for there to be narrative within action as many of the best scenes occur in the middle of the war zone.

With so many films trying to capture the American spirit of inclusiveness and pride but falling into jingoism and false-idolization, Soldiers of Paint is a welcome breath of fresh air.  I laughed, learned a bit, noticed that the room was getting a bit dusty, and got caught up in the grand drama that is paintball D-Day.  Somewhere out there are two people walking down the street, one carrying a documentary film and the other carrying an action film.  They bump into each other and hold aloft Soldiers of Paint:

“Hey, you got your action movie in my documentary!”

“No, you got your documentary in my action movie!”

Just like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, something far more delicious resulted.

“Soldiers of Paint” is now available for instant streaming on Netflix Watch Instant.

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About the Author

Do you remember that dorky kid from elementary school who loved movies and comic books? Dan's him, but an adult... well in most senses of the word. All that matters is that he's an aficionado of all things pop culture and wants to share his interests with the world.

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