Mark Harris’ Five Came Back is one of the best books ever written about the film industry. Unfortunately, the conventional Netflix documentary adapted from it bears none of the formal inventiveness so integral to the success of the source material.
Whereas Harris relays history like a thriller, director Laurent Bouzereau tells the story utilizing traditional documentary aesthetics. The only creative decision on display is the thoughtful matching of which modern-day auteurs narrates each of the old helmers’ segments, compelling the audience to compare their careers through juxtaposition, thereby enlightening aspects of them all. Since it’s a holdover from the novel, the doc cannot be credited with the narrative structure’s unconventional chronological infidelity that reveals thematic connections instead of just the usual temporal ones.