The Fog of War
2003 | Documentary | 107 minutes | English
This superb and heartbreaking documentary by Errol Morris focuses primarily on Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara during the early stages of the Vietnam War. While President Kennedy expressed doubts about winning the war, McNamara pushed ahead making decisions that caused untold deaths and destruction. He continued to advise President Johnson about the importance of winning the Vietnam War. Now 85, McNamara discusses his fateful decisions with some regret and sadness. Morris also includes in this documentary footage of McNamara’s early childhood, his education at Berkeley and Harvard, his experiences during World War II, his success as a “whiz kid” at Ford, and his later years as president of the World Bank. Although at the end McNamara did repent somewhat, many could not forgive him for his pursuit of a war that cost more than 58,000 American lives and the lives of 3.4 million Vietnamese.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 96%
- Metacritic Score: 87
Academy Awards: Winner, Best Documentary Feature
Independent Spirit Award: Winner, Best Documentary Feature
In 2019 the film was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”
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Morris is uncanny in his ability to bring life to the abstract, and here he uses graphics, charts, moving titles and visual effects in counterpoint to what McNamara is saying. There are tape recordings of Oval Office discussions involving McNamara, Kennedy, and Johnson. Underneath all of them, uneasily urging the movie along, is the Philip Glass’ score, which sounds—what? Mournful, urgent, melancholy, driven?
If there’s one movie that ought to be studied by military and civilian leaders around the world at this treacherous historical moment, it is THE FOG of WAR, Errol Morris’s sober, beautifully edited documentary portrait of former United Stated defense secretary Robert. S. McNamara.
The best time to speak to a significant figure is years later, once hindsight has brought wisdom, and career concerns are no longer a hindrance to candor. THE FOG of WAR, Errol Morris’s masterful documentary portrait of Robert S. McNamara and his times, does just that. It reflects on modern history, providing new angles on a man and an era that we thought we fully understood but didn’t.
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