Sixteen years after releasing the groundbreaking classic "The Civil War," director Ken Burns returns to the battlefield with "The War."

Considering how often World War II has been mined by filmmakers, it's amazing anyone can give it a different spin. Instead of the usual profiles of politicians, soldiers and the battles, Burns presents the events from the perspective of the citizens of four small American towns.

Thanks to a wealth of still images and stock and newsreel film clips, "The War" moves at a quicker clip than "The Civil War" and is equally as devastating. Narrated with calm assurance by Keith David, the film also features actors Tom Hanks and Adam Arkin providing voices for the departed.

Clocking in at nearly 16 hours, the movie never once drags or fails to keep the viewer completely riveted. This should be required viewing for every student in every school district in this country.

Technical specifications: aspect ratio: Widescreen anamorphic (16:9), audio: English Dolby (5.1), subtitles: none.

Special features include:

Making of "The War"

Commentary track

(PBS, $129.99)