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The Pentagon Papers

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The story of Daniel Ellsberg, a high-ranking Pentagon official who, in his effort to preserve American democracy, leaks top-secret Defense Department documents to the media. Stars James Spader, Alan Arkin and Paul Giamatti.

From the Back Cover

Expose a nation's treachery...or protect it as a matter of national security? It's the dilemma facing Daniel Ellsberg (James Spader) when he stumbles across "The Pentagon Papers." Based on a true story, this compelling film traces the story of Ellsberg, an ambitious, Harvard-educated ex-Marine assigned to the top position at the Pentagon. As an analyst assigned to monitor the information coming out of Vietnam, Ellsberg is shocked to discover a 7,000-page, top-secret report that reveals the true extent of America's clandestine involvement in the conflict. And his decision to expose the stunning truth behind the government's active participation will either label him as national hero...or a seditious renegade, intent on damaging the nation's security and best interests. "The Pentagon Papers" is a powerful political drama, hailed by critics. Also starring Emmy Award-nominee Alan Arkin.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: James Spader, Claire Forlani, Paul Giamatti, Alan Arkin, Kenneth Welsh
  • Directors: Rod Holcomb
  • Writers: Jason Horwitch
  • Producers: Rod Holcomb, Fritzi Horstman, John Sacret Young, Joshua D. Maurer, Stephen J. Turnbull
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000WN1N6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,929 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Pentagon Papers" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
THE PENTAGON PAPERS is a truly engrossing dramatic film! Despite being "made for TV," wonderful performances abound in this movie. James Spader--an extraordinarily gifted actor--gives a top-notch portrayal of Daniel Ellsberg, which keeps the viewers' attention throughout the course of the film. The story has a fascinating plot that explores a complex question: is treason justifiable when it will reveal the truth to the public? Should revealing classified documents to prove the failures of the Vietnam war be considered treason...or should it be considered an act of patriotism? This film thoughtfully considers these questions and more, and leaves you to form your own opinions about whether Ellsberg's actions were right or wrong.

If you are a fan of James Spader, this film is a must...as he is at his best here. For anyone interested in a good story, based on true events, this movie is worth a look!
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Despite excellent supporting performances, this movie is really a one-man show: it's all about Spader's smart, emotional performance as Daniel Ellsberg.

Very little of the movie happens in the Watergate time-frame from which we know Ellberg's name. Most instead covers the ten years (roughly 1963-1973) during which he reached the point of thinking the most patriotic act he could take was to release top-secret Department of Defense material about the Vietnam war. It's an engrossing exploration of the great questions: what is duty? to whom do we owe loyalty?

Nothing explodes, except during a few striking, necessary scenes in Vietnam. Thanks be for intelligent film-making.
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Format: DVD
This movie came out on TNT within a month of the start of "Operation Iraqi Freedom." I had taped it off the TV and made copies of the TV broadcast for just about everyone I knew.

For those of us who watched with jaws dropped as Congress voted nearly unanimously to support the war, the movie brings back in vivid detail the times from the late 60's. I appreciate that it brought out the personal inner turmoil of a man who was initially a "hawk" (because he felt that Communism must be stopped), but who became convinced that the Viet Nam War was wrong and that he needed to do something to stop it, even at the risk of being tried for treason.

Having lived in Washington throughout the entire Watergate affair, leaving a week or two after Nixon, I really appreciate the delicious irony of the fact that Nixon was so anxious to discredit Ellsburg that he had his "Watergate Burglers" break into Ellsburg's psychiatrist office and steal his file. It was this contamination of due process that resulted in Ellsburg's trial being thrown out of court.

This movie is a must-see for any student of democracy, and any American who is under 45....
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Every now and then in my classes, a student(s) will really get 'into' the Vietnam War. I like to give a copy to those who will really value it. My original purchase came when it was first printed...and I won't give that one up. Since then I keep buying and giving.

The lessons from this book are many. The Iran Contra Affair is another important 'read'.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert McNamara's sole contribution to America's well-being and constitutional governance was the commissioning of this book to document "what went wrong" in the Vietnam War. It's amazing he had the courage to do so, given how much he contributed to the debacle of that conflict. Vietnam still haunts America's soul, and is still hotly debated 40 years after we left that unfortunate country. A searing indictment of McNamara himself, of JFK, of Henry Cabot Lodge, of phony "body counts", of our rationale for going to war, The Pentagon Papers is in a class by itself as it shows a country torn to pieces by its own moral failures. The saddest line in the entire book, is Diem saying to Henry Cabot Lodge (who green-lighted Diem's overthrow at JFK's orders), after Lodge offered him asylum in the US Embassy. "No," Diem said. "I am going to restore order," Imagine the President of the United States ordering the assassination of the President of our own ally during wartime! The country owes a deep debt of gratitude to Daniel Ellsberg for leaking this document. As Pete Seger wrote:
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

When will WE ever learn? Despite the horrific revelations of this powerful book, it seems the answer is "Never!"
when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
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Format: DVD
Though a serviceman involved in the Vietnam War, I never knew so much about what was really going on until seeing this great film. Want to know about Vietnam, political corruption, and the misuse of truth? See it!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I think this was made for TV. Good presentation or familiarization with the subject of Dan Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. The papers themselves are on the web in .pdf files. Exhaustive reading but worth it. This film put the actual events behind the report and how it was made public into a nice neat package.
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It's startling & unsettling to realize how many people today don't know who Daniel Ellsberg is, or what he did for this country some 40 years ago. A brilliant, driven man, a former Marine & a major up-&-coming intellectual star during Lyndon Johnson's presidency, he began his work for the Department of Defense as an avid hawk regarding Vietnam. We were right to be there, we had to be there, we were going to win!

Or so he believed before harsh reality set in ....

Troubled by the massive discrepancies in official reports arriving from Vietnam, he volunteered to be an observer in the field, eventually staying in Vietnam for a couple of years. During that time, he saw more & more that the war was not only unwinnable, but essentially immoral. As he himself would eventually put it, "We aren't on the wrong side, we ARE the wrong side."

Upon returning to his position with the Rand Corporation, he was one of the contributors to the in-house, secret history of the war in Vietnam commissioned by Robert McNamara. When he began reading its 7000+ pages, he was shocked by what he discovered: a history of lies, deceptions, and moral blindness that permeated several presidencies, both Democratic & Republican. This tore his life apart, and his conscience would not allow him to remain silent. The American people had a right to know what was being done in their names, behind their backs.

And so he made his choice: to release the Pentagon Papers to the press, so that the public could know the truth. Ellsberg knew very well that he might face a lifetime in jail, but he would not be deterred.
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