Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009)
Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist, concludes that the war is based on decades of lies and leaks 7,000 pages of top secret documents to The New York Times, making headlines around the world. Ellsberg risks life in prison to stop a war he helped plan. This story of one man's profound change of heart is also a piercing look at the world of government secrecy as revealed by the ultimate insider. Marked by a landmark battle between America's greatest newspapers and its president -- that goes to the Supreme Court -- this political thriller unravels a saga that leads directly to Watergate, Nixon's resignation and the end of the Vietnam War. … More
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Critic Reviews for Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
For those who know the story, Most Dangerous Man puts it in fresh perspective. If you don't, there's probably not a better way to discover it.
This isn't a dusty chapter of ancient history, but a fresh, exciting story. Ellsberg, who worked as a defense analyst in the government-funded Rand Corp., emerges as a complex and contradictory character.
For those who lived through the turmoil of Vietnam, and for the generations that have come since, the film is an important document in its own right.
Ehrlich and Goldsmith carve out their own little place in the canon by focusing on the ethical journey of one man who refused to shrug off his own responsibility for the war and atoned for it with a seismic act of civil disobedience.
It is a skillful, well-made film, although, since Ellsberg is the narrator, it doesn't probe him very deeply. We see his version of himself.
Daniel Ellsberg was the first insider to take his concerns outside. The results changed the course of the conversation, and a country.
But because "Dangerous Man" sees the era through Ellsberg's eyes, and we hear the disgust in his voice as he describes his younger, gung-ho self, the film becomes a fascinating and clear-eyed self-portrait.
Stop me if you've heard this one, but sometimes politicians get us into wars that last forever and go nowhere under false pretenses.
Much research went into compiling the archival black and white news footage and photos along with audio from the Nixon White House tapes. This compelling film takes a cloak-and-dagger approach and is full of landmark historical events
This is such a gripping yarn it plays more like a thriller than a documentary.
It's a bit surprising that a documentary with such an unwieldy title offers such a streamlined and resonant account of history.
The makers of the Oscar-nominated documentary feature simply set up their cameras, and then just let the subject tell his own story in his own words.
Revealing and exciting, even for those oldsters who know perfectly well how it will turn out.
As a biography, it's sketchy (the impression we are left with is that Ellsberg is a near-saint). But as a personal take on a crucial chunk of American history, Dangerous is riveting.
It's a surprise that such an incredible story hasn't been told before in cinema, and the film takes full advantage of the story imbuing it with all the suspense of a thriller and raises important moral questions for the audience to consider.
There's reality and depth here, but a chill, too, that the filmmaking never quite manages to melt.
It's a story good enough to withstand the conventional documentary formula of archive footage and talking heads -- and maybe even good enough to withstand a few ill-advised sprinkles of hokey music, animation and re-enactments.
The enormity of the story juxtaposed with the notion of one man single-handedly changing history is irresistibly powerful
Audience Reviews for Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Daniel Ellsberg released confidential Pentagon documents that led to a shift in the public's opinion about the Vietnam War.
This is most interesting question this film presents: when one chooses to fight injustice, is it best to do so from inside the ranks of an unjust body, or should one buck the system completely, going outside the organization? Many people I've encountered throughout my life have made the first argument, that one does more good inside an organization, attempting to change its operations from the inside out. Ellsberg takes the opposite point because he admits that being a part of the military-industrial complex caused him alter his conception of justice so that he wasn't changing the organization but the organization was changing him. I find that fascinating.
The rest of the film chronicles the fallout from Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers and the ensuing legal battles. Ellsberg is the film's narrator, so we don't get to see much about his character except for cherry picked interviews that re-affirm Ellsberg's conception of himself. I would have preferred a most objective take on the subject.
Overall, the thematic element is intriguing to me, and the film is a strong chronicle of a tumultuous time.
A stunning documentary of the man who helped launch and then bring an end to the Vietnam War. Not to mention bringing down Nixon and his clutch of horrible henchmen. A true American hero, Daniel Ellsberg is someone everyone should know about. You watch films like this in the hopes of preventing history from repeating itself. Sadly, it already has repeated itself in the form of BushCo, his gang of immoral entrepreneurs, and the lies that led America into Iraq. And so it goes . . . Watch this and All the President's Men on a movie night when you want to be inspired to do the right thing.More
This documentary is something of a mixed bag. Admittedly, I knew most of the facts surrounding the Pentagon Papers, having read Daniel Ellsberg's autobiography a few years before. While also paced like a fine spy thriller at times, the film also provides an outside perspective, making it relevant in this time of war without end.(Sorry, if I just ruined anybody's buzz.) Recently , Ellsberg has gotten heavily involved in the Wikileaks case.
At first, the documentary also succeeds by placing the story of the Pentagon Papers in the context of the American success story in that most analysts saw the Vietnam War in terms of success(by following this company line, they would be promoted by approving bosses), not in lives lost or from a Vietnamese perspective which is how Ellsberg and many other protesters saw it.(Why anybody thought the President of the Ford Motor Company would make a competent Secretary of Defense is beyond me.) In a crisis of conscience, Ellsberg performed an extraoardinary act by leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, risking decades of jail. At which point, the documentary goes even beyond hagiography to beatification as the tone turns towards sanctimonious, attacking Senators Fulbright and McGovern for their more cautious approach in criticizing the war. Also, while it may make sense on the surface that the Pentagon Papers led directly to Watergate, the truth is probably more complex, as Hunter Thompson thought J. Edgar Hoover kicking the bucket in 1972 was also an important link in Nixon's downfall.
It explains the release of the Pentagon Papers well and the subsequent trials that occurred as a result, but I don't think we really get to know Ellsberg the man. Since he tells his own story here, it seems filtered. He did a great thing, I get it but you never really get a sense of him as a complex individual.More
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