Path to War - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Path to War Reviews

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½ November 8, 2016
An HBO movie that tracks the escalation of the war in Vietnam during LBJ's Presidency. Johnson's ambitious domestic policy, the so-called "Great Society", is increasingly derailed by the war and his reputation is systematically destroyed. Johnson is played by Michael Gambon, which does not initially seem like a very good idea since his Texas accent is very shaky. However, my attention to his accent faded as the film went on and the strength of his performance became clear. The ensemble cast is wonderful, with Donald Sutherland as Clark Clifford, Alec Baldwin as Robert McNamara, Frederic Forrest as General Wheeler and Tom Skerritt as General Westmoreland being the stand outs. At nearly 3 hours it's longer than it needs to be, especially as very little new information is conveyed in the last 1/2 hour, but it's a classy and informative production. This was John Frankenheimer's last film.
May 1, 2016
John Frankenheimer's 2002 Path to War couldn't have been more timely. As one brash Texan president revved the country up for a long, pointless, losing war, Frankenheimer dramatized the last time the country had been down this catastrophic path.

The parallels come easily to mind. Johnson led a whole bipartisan Washington consensus that mistakenly believed Vietnam a vital Cold War front. Communist rule of Vietnam would imperil the US ... not at all, in fact. And the whole military engagement began with possibly trumped-up reports about naval conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin.

When Path to War aired on HBO, another Texan president forged a mistaken Washington consensus that Iraq represented a vital front in a global War on Terrorism. Cherry-picked intelligence mistakenly suggested that members the anti-US terrorist group Al Qaeda sheltered in Iraq, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. A myth persisted that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

In each case, the subsequent war extended beyond the president's term, was ruinously expensive and deadly, and handed territory to the very forces the US feared. Voices of warning George Ball and Clark Clifford go unheeded, like Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson, and Valerie Plame, in 2002.

Oh, but the differences are so telling: Michael Gambon's Lyndon Johnson burns to build his Great Society, to extend Civil and Voting Rights. He shines most when talking down the racist George Wallace, and when the confused president confides in his partner, Ladybird.

By contrast, George W. Bush sought to be something called a "compassionate conservative", but he was a child of privilege and faith.

In Path to War, the Vietnam War is driven above all by Robert McNamara's single-minded focus on the lessons of Munich. But the horror in Alec Baldwin's eyes as a war protestor immolates himself ... You will never see doubt like that in the eyes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Condaleeza Rice.

At the remove of fourteen years, I have one question: why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over?
November 23, 2015
It's hard to make a drama-free movie about Johnson's war in Vietnam, but this film comes close. We never see what converts McNamara from hawk to skeptic. There is the occasional mention of "the poor", but we don't feel LBJ's frustration at having to sacrifice The Great Society for a war he didn't start. There is no mention of public protests until the film enters its third hour. We don't see any of the horrors that turned the American public against the war. And the realization that the "kill counts" are not an accurate way to tell who's winning the war is played as a military math error. Most confusing of all, the film ends with LBJ announcing he won't seek a second term as dramatic, triumphant music swells in the background. What are we supposed to be cheering? LBJ's realization that Bobby Kennedy would beat him in the primaries? That -- as the closing titles tell us -- the war wouldn't end until 58,000 Americans and two million (!) Vietnamese were dead? The history of this period is the stuff of Greek tragedy; it's a shame this film failed to capture more than a touch of that.
March 16, 2015
Good historical mock documentary. Interesting to see the slippery slope to war.

-- Watch Someday If Free!
March 5, 2015
Fellow junkies of well made, albeit slower and possibly boring to some (not forcefully fabricated to be made entertaining say like our your beloved Kevin Spacey cartoon, er show, House of Cards). might enjoy going back to this made for TV, long, movie you maybe never saw...directed by the terrific varied filmmaker John Frankehimer, who's many masterpieces include the old Black and White Seconds, the oringal Manchurian Candidate, and much later the under-loved DeNiro flick Ronin, which seems to age well..and more...with a top notch cast and a smart accurate seeming script...as lower budget affairs often do, they blend in some stock footage, well...BRit actor Michael Gambon (the second Dumbeldorf) is solid as LBJ as was TOm Wikinson this year in selma, altho neither captured the homely Texan madness as might be best suited to see on screen someday....the supporting ast are strong, with familiar faces, and the real gem as it were is an unsuspectingly good Alec Baldwin as one of history's greastiest and oddly compelling and disutrbing figures Robert McMamarna...anyway, if you are even reading this, you would now by now if this type of thing appeals to you...if so, enjoy....if not, well House of Cards awaits to tickle your light toes, or whatever...or steer clear of political and historical narrative...das cool too...me, i likes em sometimes...ah yes the cast also includes Tom SKerrit and the always amazing somehow Donald Sutherland...some people...
February 19, 2014
A well made and acted historical drama that unfortunately lacks focus and feels like its trying to show too much.
½ December 29, 2012
This was a slow movie but was very educational about the history of president LBJ! I did learn something.
October 29, 2012
made LBJ seem very sympathetic like he was a victim
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2012
A thorough and effective examination of the Johnson presidency, focusing on the escalating involvement in Vietnam that would eventually undue his administration. Very well written, the film always feels realistic, often re-creating scenes with verbatim historical transcripts. Michael Gambon's Lyndon Johnson is uncanny, he captures the overbearing, homespun demeanor he was known for, while also replicating his mannerisms perfectly. Overall, I would argue the film was far too kind to Johnson, conveying him as more of a victim of circumstance, who found himself in over his head and refusing to cut his losses, and whose otherwise lofty achievements (the mythical "Great Society" programs of dubious effectiveness) go unnoticed. Still, it was very effective in showing a conflicted man, reminding me almost of Oliver Stone's Nixon. Similarly, Alec Baldwin's McNamara was surprisingly authentic, showing a brilliant, though naive, man of cool demeanor. The running time is a bit bloated, but well worth it for history/political buffs.

4/5 Stars
August 3, 2010
long but informative look at the LBJ white house and his role in escalating the Vietnam war...makes him very human...at the same time there is scene where Donald Sutherland tells LBJ that the decision were his and taht ultimately he must take the responsibility...worth a watch from a historical point of view
July 11, 2010
LBJ comes across as weak and pathetic in this movie; he is always blaming the Kennedys for his predicament.
½ June 7, 2010
Inédit en France, ce téléfilm américain n'a de téléfilm que le nom. Un casting exceptionnel Michael Gambon, Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, Philip Baker Hall, etc...), un grand nom à la réalisation et un film de 2h45 (!) qu'on ne voit pas passer.
John Frankenheimer a chippé la recette miracle d'Oliver Stone sur "JFK" et l'applique cette fois sur Lyndon B. Johnson et l'intensification de la guerre du Viet-Nam. C'est presque une suite non avouée du film d'Oliver Stone. Un film passionant, qu'il faut découvrir !
November 10, 2009
I love how Gary Sinise keeps popping up as George Wallace in these all these docudramas and bio movies. Too funny. Very good performances, especially by Dumbledore. This movie more far too slow for me in the first half but lucky picked up by the second half. Not all acurate but for what its worth its educational about the history of president LBJ and you do learn something, whether or not you agree with the lesson. One star taken away for too long and not crediting Gary Sinise.
½ August 13, 2009
How weird it came out right before the the Iraq war. It's seemingly competent president is a far cry from what the US had in 2003 though. You go to war with the forces you have! Reading up on the Vietnam war for hours before this helps a lot, even though, it's pretty boring. A little Lions for Lambs action would have been great.
July 9, 2009
Very good, good performances, fairly accurate with historic facts
February 23, 2009
Well made..was quite intense....good watch
January 22, 2009
well umn just seen this movie 4 the 1st time n think that this is good movie 2 watch its got a good cast of actors/actressess throguhout this movie i think that donald sutherland plays a good part throughout this movie its a good movie 2 watch..i think that the director of this tv/drama movie had done a good job of directing this movie because you never know what 2 expect throughout this movie its a good movie 2 watch because you never know what 2 expect throughout this movie
December 4, 2008
Great docu-drama of the Johnson Administration and Vietnam!! Highly regarded!!
½ November 4, 2008
a well done movie. Everyone plays good, makes you think everyting is real. this is a long movie, but it has no boring parts at all.
½ October 6, 2008
Interesting historical drama. Gambon was good, but his accent is very hard to understand, which was frustrating.
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