The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara


The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Critics Consensus

The Fog of War draws on decades of bitter experience to offer a piercing perspective on the Cold War from one of its major architects.



Total Count: 140


Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,171
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Movie Info

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.

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Critic Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

All Critics (140) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (135) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

  • Apr 19, 2013
    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.
    Dan S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 10, 2012
    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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 23, 2012
    It's Robert McNamara talking about his youth, his days as President of Ford and working as Secretary Of Defense for President Kennedy and LBJ. It's interesting to hear him speak and remember the turbulant times of the 1960's and even questioning his own motives of war and his controversial decisions during the Vietnam War. I particularly liked the story McNamara mentions of how America was so close to a nuclear war catastrophe and how sudden a threat like that was avoided.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2012
    Fog of War is a brilliant, fascinating, and absolutely absorbing documentary. It features an elderly, introspective, but also very lively Robert McNamara as he reflects on the lessons heâ(TM)s learned from his life experiences, notably the quagmire in Vietnam. The documentary does an excellent job of illustrating and relating all the lessons involved, and is particularly chilling in its recounting of the Cuban missile crisis. Fog of War will go down with Why We Fight and Inside Job, as the best political documentaries between 2000-2010.
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer

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