The Fog of War
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Academy Award(r)-winner for Best Documentary Feature, THE FOG OF WAR is the story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense, under President Kennedy and President Johnson, Robert S. McNamara. McNamara was one of the most controversial and influential political figures ofthe 20th century. Now - for the first time ever - he sits down one on one with award-winning director Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) to offer a candid and intimate journey through some of the mostseminal events in contemporary American history. As leader of the world's most powerful military force during this nation's most volatile period in recent years, McNamara offers new and often surprising insights into the 1945 bombing of Tokyo, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the effects of the Vietnam War. Featuring newly released Oval Office recorded conversations with Presidents John F. Kennedyand Lyndon B. Johnson, THE FOG OF WAR received critical acclaim for its up-close and personal insider
The Fog of War, the movie that finally won Errol Morris the best documentary Oscar, is a spellbinder. Morris interviews Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and finds a uniquely unsettling viewpoint on much of 20th-century American history. Employing a ton of archival material, including LBJ's fascinating taped conversations from the Oval Office, Morris probes the reasons behind the U.S. commitment to the Vietnam War--and finds a depressingly inconsistent policy. McNamara himself emerges as--well, not exactly apologetic, but clearly haunted by the what-ifs of Vietnam. He also mulls the bombing of Japan in World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis, raising more questions than he answers. The Fog of War has the usual inexorable Morris momentum, aided by an uneasy Philip Glass score. This movie provides a glimpse inside government. It also encourages skepticism about same. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- 24 never-before-released additional scenes
- Robert S. McNamara's 10 lessons from his life in politics
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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.
Andrzej Mikolaj Gasienica
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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