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An interesting peak into how the CIA works, with some fairly damning photos and audio clips from around the world to inside the oval office. I kind of wish Carl Colby had given a more personal take on the subject; the movie feels really more like a bunch of facts laid out with the focus really more on what happened in Vietnam than his father. I would have liked more anecdotes about his home and family life, or his life after the CIA or just anything more in depth about his sister or mother. Though maybe I'm asking too much of a movie called "the man nobody knew."
Fascinating, controversial film about former CIA Dir. William Colby. He was a "company man" and served in various capacities in Vietnam prior to becoming Director. The film is directed by his son who is clearly ambivalent about his father. A lot of famous faces from that era are interviewed, with a lot of behind-the-scenes info. History buffs will love this.
I teach writing and my freshman students will read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, the story of a Hmong child who suffers from epilepsy, as did Colby's daughter. The connection between that book and this documentary is not epilepsy but what each reveals about how rotten things are in this state, the US. Carl Colby created a portrait of great delicacy that is as much -- perhaps, more -- about his mother and the nature of both the CIA and the government in the second half of the 20th C as it is about his father. In fact, despite the nearly two hours running time, we are less aware of who William Egan Colby was than we are of who his wife was. Whether director Carl purposefully lit the set and controlled his mother's make-up or whether her fading at the end of the film was due to taking her testimony in a single shot is a question I would ask Carl Colby. For me, the true cost of being married to a "spymaster" showed in Barbara's face and her grooming. At the beginning of the film, she appears as a handsome and well-groomed older woman, typical of educated women of her generation. She is dressed in an expensive brown suit, with perhaps a paisley pattern, with a yellowish blouse sometimes peeping from the neckline. Her face is calm and poised, colored only by delicate, pink lipstick. The audience hears that she put her husband through law school. The audience hears that her husband's colleagues consider her the source of his success. The son describes them as a team. During her final appearance, her face seems heavier, the lines more obvious. The delicate lavender-pink lipstick is almost gone, leaving her mouth crumbled in appearance. Through her faded lipstick, she announces how, after nearly 40 years of marriage, William Colby asked for a divorce. Whether this brilliant symbolism was planned or accidental, the faded makeup of the loyal wife reveals how little anyone knew of this man who could smile on cue and testify before Congress (at a time when Congress was a strong and active participant in government) and say nothing.
Incredible story, and history. However, I saw it when Carl presented at the old Lumiere in SF, and his in-person hour-long discussion/commentary afterward really filled in the gaps. There is context that cannot really be translated on screen. Still, a very worthwhile documentary.
Informative look into the CIA and a former director's life. The congressional hearings were unprecedented and in the wake of nixon's resignation must have been especially trying for bill Colby and the nation. His sudden divorce and alter death only added to the mystery.
The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father CIA Spymaster William Colby
William Colby was an effective soldier/spy/spook who defined counter-insurgency before it was a word. The ability to enter a conflict not as a combatant but learn about people, their culture and use that understanding to affect change through whatever means necessary.
Cast as a man of great intrigue, determination and an Achilles heel of a willingness to serve morally ambivalent men, this is not as engaging as Mcnamaraâ(TM)s autobiography, this focuses on critical decision making. Colbyâ(TM)s son takes you through the start if the Vietnam war through the Nixon and the near collapse of the CIA in the post Nixon years.
Much of the movie are defining decision in historical events and how the leaders choose poorly or were indecisive, which proves to be the worse choice. Most memorable is a tape recording of President Kennedy and his brother discuss overthrowing the South Vietnamese President. Colby was the CIA station chief in Vietnam from 1959-1962 and knew the players very well there. The arrival of new Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, his lack of grasp of the region, and the eventual coup and assassination of President Diem and his brother.
A lawyer drawn into the adventure and intrigue and danger joins the OSS during WWII. His first of many projects is organizing, training and supplying the Norwegian underground resist the German forces.More interesting is the counter-play between the two initiatives in Vietnam. In critical villages before the war CIA and OSS (Special forces) operative worked with Diem to to help and train village on the North Vietnam border fortify and train to resist insurgence from VC. It was effective but did not fit the model of the General who had cut their teeth in WWII.
Later in the failing war Colby organized infamous operation Phoenix where ex-VC soldiers were turned to fight for the south with a highly effective kill rate of 63:1. An expected, but unwanted side-effect is the Ex-VC soldiers used their position of power to settle old scores.
independent of your political views it is definitely worth a watch on Netflix instant. One who does not study history is bound to repeat it.
A career retrospective of former CIA director William Colby, who stepped in to bite the bullet when congress smelled blood following Watergate and the Vietnam War. Left with nothing more than photos and questions in the wake of his father's mysterious disappearance on an early-morning canoe ride, Colby's filmmaker son doesn't seem to have any alternative but to seek his answers in the past. The result is a startlingly open, sweeping glimpse at the CIA's involvement in Cold War politics and the Kennedy / Nixon regimes. At times it's very dry, but the narrative is constantly loaded with historical nuggets from the men who lived it - like the kind of programming we could expect from the History Channel before it turned into whatever it is now. It's strange that, as the scale increases, Colby almost becomes an afterthought in his own story, but the film certainly tells a better story because of it. Bittersweet, insightful and informative, if too reliant on talking heads and Ken Burns photo zooms.
A bit of a mixed bag, but tons of interesting perspectives.
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Any biography on film about someone whose own son produces and narrates the story is bound to be subjective. However, Carl Colby does a remarkable job in describing his late father, once CIA director, in fairly objective terms a he saw him. He asks more questions than he answers. As someone who corresponded with Colby as a boy, I left the movie seeing him as I did even then: a highly moral man who bridges the divide between American idealism and practicality in a very dangerous world. As the movie suggests, had we followed his lead in Vietnam, things would have turned out differently-- but politics got in the way. I must admit that his approach-- connecting with the locals-- as we have strived to do in Iraq and Afghanistan-- and focusing on a counterinsurgency-- that's how we can better manage engagements of this type. Wonderful story about a fascinating American.