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on May 24, 2011
Even though this documentary doesn't reveal anything shocking or controversial about the man, it is still a decent look at the man who was blamed for the Vietnam War. But is this a just and fair assessment of the man who for seven years was the Secretary of Defense?

Robert S McNamara sat down in 2003 to talk about his life lessons during such a crucual time in American history. And even though viewers were hoping to hear regret come out of his mouth reference the Vietnam War, he made this documentary not so much as repentance, but as a warning to the new generation not to get too hopeful with the war in Iraq which by then had already started. He was 85 years old at the time this was made, and a staunch opponent to the Iraq War only because he knew early on in this war that this war would bog down the administration and become a very unpopular war.

The first 45 minutes are basically McNamara talking about his earlier life and his early time with JFK and the Cuban Missle Crisis, although it skips around after the introduction with snippets of his life before he became SecDef. His first experience following unpopular orders was his bombing raid over Japan in WWII under the command of General LeMay, who later became a commander in Vietnam. I get the feeling from watching this that even McNamara himself felt he was not qualified to be JFK's SecDef. Sure, he had served three years in WWII but when he was picked to be SecDef he was an executive at Ford Motor Company. He doesn't blame anyone for the disaster that became Vietnam; the country was sucked into it as a result of the Cold War.

There is some archival video here, but most of the time we see the aging man sitting facing the camera delivering a monologue. A few times Errol Morris, the producer, intercepts him with a question, but it's mostly just one man recounting history. The viewer has a hard time feeling empathy for him because even at his age he is still a confident, perhaps arrogant man. But there are a few moments around the 1:00 hour mark that his eyes swell up with tears when talking about JFK and his chosen spot in Arlington Cemetery, "The most beautiful spot of DC."

This sometimes choppy documentary is clearly McNamara's view of the Vietnam War. He evades all questions he feels are inflamatory or controversial; that's perhaps from experience and his recall of how he was lambasted by the media in the late 1960s. Despite the lack of any new material, this is still a worthwhile documentary about one man who sent 58,000 American warriors to their deaths and who was loathed for a time being as much as Rumsfeld was in more recent times. Ironically, his voice sounds like that of Rumsfeld and he even resembles him in his younger days.

McNamara died in 2009 and in many ways this production is his swan song. However, his memoir "In Retrospect" may be a bit more satisfying for anyone who wants to understand the deeper anguish of this man during seven very turbulent years of our history. Still, this is a must-view for all who were affected by the Vietnam War.
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on July 4, 2014
Documentary picture could be boring and hard to follow since the dialog or monolog is the main force driving entire picture. This is not the case with this masterfully made documentary combined with parts of other documented action of men who were in the center of foreign policy and war making in J.F.Kennedy and L.B.Johnson administrations. McNamara honesty is visible. I believe him when he says that JFK personally authorized assassination of president Diem. Next, as most of you know, whole hell broke lose. Yes, McNamara is looking straight into your eyes and says our involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. He concludes we were thinking that we fight the Cold War but for the South and North Vietnam it was a civil war. If you buy and watch this movie you can be almost a live witness to McNamara confession. Tell me which prominent politician especially president has publicly admitted to such horrendous mistake as the Vietnam War was. We still count casualties of this unnecessary war.
Andrzej Mikolaj Gasienica
Chicago, Illinois
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on June 11, 2014
Robert McNamara shaped much of America's military policy from WWII to Vietnam Nam. In a marathon session, Morris gets behind the icy intellect and into the man's tormented soul. Because he is speaking to the camera, you get the riveting impression McNamara is pleading his case directly to you. Hypnotic, revealing, dramatic, and fully deserving of the Oscar it received. For all his quirks, Errol Morris is the American documentarian of our time.
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on April 3, 2017
GREAT WATCH!
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on August 17, 2014
This is a classic must-see for any history buff, as it takes you behind the scenes of some of the most crucial decisions of the 20th century - the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the use of nuclear weapons. McNamara is an interesting character, as there are moments when he goes so far, only to close the curtain on his inner most thoughts. He sheds new light on the topic of war, confirming some of our worst fears - there is no rationality, there will always be civilian casualties, and escalation is simply human nature. It is slow moving, but compelling. You will find yourself waiting on each lesson.
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on December 5, 2010
I had passed this dvd title several times while wandering the aisles of Blockbuster over the years. I recently rented it finally and was very pleased I did. I then ordered it on Amazon to keep among the modest collection of movies I own.

I was a teenager during the Nixon years and I remember the evening news with the Vietnam casualty totals reported like it was the Dow Jones average. The draft ended just before I turned 18 years of age. I went on to college and didn't serve in the military...(a reality I regretted later in life when I finally learned what was important to me). If you are of similar age, you may remember protest attitudes. Over the years I've ejoyed reading history, and invested some effort reading about the subject of Vietnam. "Fire In The Lake", Karnow's "Vietnam, A History", "The Best and The Brightest", just to name a few better known books. And as it turned out in life, I developed friendships with a few military veterans of that era.

Still, I'm no expert on much of anything, but I thought this documentary about McNamara was excellent. It's put together in a very interesting format that I think would be accessible to even someone unschooled on the subjects covered. And it covers a great deal more subject than just Kennedy/Johnson and southeast Asia. I could understand criticism that it was an attempt to repair his reputation near the end of his life. I'd be inclined to see some good in his character, though I'd say he must have been "cold-blooded".
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This is a poignant and even haunting DVD. This movie, by Erroll Morris, is based on his interviewing Robert McNamara, late in his life. Interviews are interspersed with archived material to provide punctuation. The end result is quite powerful.

The juxtaposition of the interview with historical scenes adds a considerable power to this DVD. McNamara was about 85 at the time he was interviewed. His responses to questions are measured, but there is always a sense that he is trying to grapple with his own role in historical events such as the Vietnam War. He certainly does not apologize for his actions, but there is a sense in this movie that his reflections are part of his own internal struggles over historical events.

The well discussed "lessons" raised during this movie have some value in themselves. However, they are useful in gaining a greater sense of McNamara's views and the internal debates he appears to be experiencing.

His feelings about John Kennedy's death are quite real. His eyes throughout this movie are compelling to watch.

This DVD moves quickly. The cumulative result is powerful. Whether or not one ends up feeling positively or negatively about McNamara, one does end up gaining some real insights into him and into the times in which he played such an important role.
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on August 9, 2015
A wide-ranging overview of war and foreign policy, as observed by Robert McNamara. From his days as an operational analyst involved in the bombing campaigns against Japan in WW2 through the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Vietnam War, this film is presented as a series of maxims, or lessons learned. Poignant at times, it also includes rare footage and original recordings of radio and telephone calls.
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on November 16, 2009
I stumbled onto this DVD while searching for more Vietnam material. I'm glad I did.

Robert McNamara is one of the most engaging people I've ever seen on any screen. He is about 85 yrs old in this documentary yet he is as sharp as a tack. His 11 lessons are born of a life that has seen so much change and he has held many top positions in various industries.

John Kennedy invited him to become Secretary of Defense shortly after his election to President. McNamara gave up a life of lavish wealth to accept.
The majority of the documentary involves his own story telling of his life including his term as SoD and his interactions with the presidents he served under.

Kennedy tended to listen Johnson tended not too. It's fascinating. He recalls serving under General Curtis LeMay in WW II with respect for LeMay but a clear disagreement with his thinking.

During the documentary you can almost see pain on McNamara's face as he recalls the descent into the Vietnam war once Johnson took over after Kennedy was assassinated. From the outset of his term in office, McNamara and Kennedy wanted an exit strategy from Vietnam. Johnson wanted escalation. This almost seems to haunt him as he tells his story.

Watch the documentary, watch McNamara's face, look into his eyes and see a very VERY intelligent human being with so much soul yet there's also pain. He recalls his whole life with such clarity and articulation and his stance and beliefs have never changed as proven by the taped conversations in the White House that play sporadically throughout the documentary.

An amazing man with SUCH a story to tell. I recommend this highly, it's honest,
sometimes brutal and McNamara has the guts to expose his human side to us.
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on April 26, 2014
The Fog of War, is regularly ranked within top five all time best documentary films, for many reasons. Its centerpiece personality focuses on Robert McNamara and his day from WW-II through "McNamara's war" in Viet Nam, including the Cuban Missile Crises. Made just as the 60 Secrecy Act expired for WW-II, and 6 months prior to presidential election of 2005, as well his own death occurring 6 months latter.
Admitting to being a war criminal, if it where not for a US victory, the VN war arising from our misunderstanding their contentious 1,000 year conflicted history with China. He provides two other examples when USA avoiding catastrophic consequence, he compares with winning a lottery.
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