The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)
Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara is the sole focus of documentarian Errol Morris' The Fog of War, a film that not only analyzes McNamara's controversial decisions during the first half of the Vietnam War, but also his childhood upbringing, his education at Berkeley and Harvard, his involvement in World War II, and his later years as president of the World Bank. Culling footage from almost 20 hours of interviews with the Secretary, Morris details key moments from McNamara's career, including the 1945 bombing of Tokyo, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and President Kennedy's suggestions to the Secretary that the U.S. remove itself from Vietnam. Throughout the film, the 85-year-old McNamara expounds his philosophies on international conflict, and shows regret and pride in equal measure for, respectively, his mistakes and accomplishments. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
It's difficult to imagine anyone from George W. Bush's administration coming forth with such awe-inspiring, agenda-free candor, contrition, insight and misgivings about America's foreign policy. A documentary about morals, respect and blind luck.
This is the most culturally significant documentary imaginable and should be mandatory for repeated viewing by all public officials the world over.
Even handed, but never to a fault, this critical and at times even touching examination of Robert McNamara's life and role in the Cold War is as brilliant as I hoped it would be.
[It] raise[s] complex questions about man's role in that most awful and inherent of human characteristics: our penchant for war.
When it comes to war, Robert S. McNamara wants us to know that our history with war has taught us plenty. Not that we've learned much from it.
A fascinating look into the mind of one of 20th century America's most controversial military figures
McNamara makes a very human monster, a flawed man who regrets that "in order to do good you have to be willing to do evil."
a deeply felt testament of a man struggling to wring meaning and redemption out of history's hard, unyielding surfaces
The images and music combine with McNamara's voice and expressions to create a tapestry of a life lived toughly through a world that has looked over the edge at hell itself.
Morris seems to go deep. But does he? The film is Morris's but the message McNamara's... The film is effective emotionally -- sometimes unbearably so. Intellectually...?
Fascinating look at an influential old man looking back on his life, enlivened by strong graphics and news footage, with a great Philip Glass score.
I'm dismayed when movies like this come along, because they deserve to be seen. But audiences generally don't give them what they deserve.
With The Fog of War the human frailties of power and policy are brought into focus with our current situation. Who else is freaked out?
Audience Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
A mesmerizing, slightly offbeat documentary from the great Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line") concerning former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and his experiences in both WWII and Vietnam, and looking back on his decisions and how to pertain to the days we live in now. McNamara appears to be a very likable, flawed individual (like we all are) who seems to be historically misunderstood given his reputation that he screwed up the Vietnam War quite badly. Instead we get an honest, genuine look at a man who gives a fair look at himself and his decisions, admits to his mistakes, but remains proud of his many accomplishments. Definitely a more humanizing look at a politician, in a day and age where people love to eat these people for lunch. One of the better documentaries I can recall, and anyone from the Kennedy-Johnson era should give this a look.More
Robert McNamara explains his life during the two World Wars and the Vietnam War.
For those of us who are students of history but didn't live during the times of the Vietnam War and WWII, this film doesn't have the resonance it might otherwise have. What I see is McNamara the apologist and McNamara the regretful soldier, personalities that he freely oscillates between almost at will. He wags his finger at the camera so many times that I felt like he was giving me, a small boy, a lecture on how to live. The film becomes a compilation of McNamara saying, "I did my best, but I fucked up, but damn it, I did my best!"
Overall, I think this film is a good introduction to people who know little about the wars, but it ultimately devolves into a talking head documentary.
Ranks amongst the most fascinating documentaries I have ever seen. More than a Vietnam War or politics or war itself, The Fog of War is a testimony to the life of Robert MaNamara, as if we the audience are godlike watching while a human being explains his life, his passions, his mistakes, asking for foegiveness and compassion in the face of history and death.More
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