Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
"Try to Learn...and pass it on"
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.