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Overall Rating
3.78

Awesome: 25.93%
Worth A Look57.41%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 1.85%
Sucks: 14.81%

6 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Fog of War, The
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by Elaine Perrone

"A riveting, often maddening, look at history repeating itself, in reverse."
5 stars

Listening to Robert S. McNamara, former Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ and the first non-family member to be appointed president of Ford Motor Company, feels a bit like listening to Fred Madison in David Lynch's Lost Highway. Both men seem to like to remember things their way, and both are staggering contradictions of themselves and masters of self-deception.

Imparting "Eleven Lessons Learned from the Life of Robert S. McNamara," his musings come across far more as the excuses of an arrogant man who knew even at the time that the acts in which he was participating were wrong but who was able to put aside his misgivings for the sake of expediency.

Speaking about his role in the firebombing of 67 cities in Japan during WWII, in which he served under Gen. Curtis LeMay (himself said to be the prototype for Dr. Strangelove's Buck Turgidson), McNamara admits that, had we lost the war, the two of them would surely have been tried as war criminals. The admission seems remorseless when followed up by his unsupported justification that the sacrifice of the lives of 1 million Japanese men, women, and children "saved" the lives of thousands of Allied troops.

In his discussion of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a conflict that came to be known as "McNamara's War" and earned him the sobriquet "Mac the Knife," McNamara blithely puts forth lessons such as empathizing with one's enemy and decrying U.S. unilateralism, at the same time commenting that we didn't see the conflict in Vietnam in the same light as they did -- as a civil war -- as if he'd just now come to that realization. His lesson on the U.S.'s wrongheaded notions of teaching the South Vietnamese the correctness of Western values seems hollow, given his refusal to speak up in indictment of the current administration for doing the very same thing.

McNamara often comes across as living in a fog of his own making, his principles skewed and priorities scrambled. He talks of his "marriage made in heaven" to Margaret Craig, smilingly describing the happiest time of their lives as the years when the stress of his job caused his wife and son to develop ulcers and perhaps contributed to her untimely death. His devotion to Camelot, even after all these years, comes through loud and clear when he breaks down talking about escorting Jackie Kennedy to Arlington National Cemetery to show her "the most beautiful spot on the grounds" that he had chosen for the remains of JFK.

Still, for all the hindsighted self-righteousness of the man at its center, Fog is a masterful documentary, one not to be missed, with Errol Morris powerfully recreating history through the use of archival photos, film, audio taped conversations, visual graphics, and an appropriately ominous Philip Glass score with which he intercuts McNamara's reminisces.

Morris leaves the toughest question for last, when he asks McNamara why he failed to speak up about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam after LBJ fired him. Not even taking the advice of one of his own lessons, which is to answer a question not as it was asked but as one wishes it to have been asked, McNamara instead waffles: "I'm not going to say any more than I have. These are the kinds of questions that get me in trouble. You don't know what I know about how inflammatory my words can appear."

That response alone speaks volumes about all the self-absolution that went before it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8406&reviewer=376
originally posted: 07/15/04 14:20:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.

User Comments

1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Well made. 4 stars
9/22/07 pin K. Thomas has obviously never seen an Errol Morris film before - too bad. 5 stars
1/10/05 Phil M. Aficionado RSMcN shoulda been JFK's veep; quality film about a quality man, gray areas and all. See it 5 stars
9/23/04 denny will rumsfeld do the same some day? probably no brave enough 4 stars
9/13/04 wovengold Fascinating; my opinion of McNamarra has completely changed. 5 stars
8/29/04 Gray ALL is fair in love and war (axil apologis's suckt) 2 stars
7/27/04 JB Much philosophising, and moralising but no answers, no insights into the man. 1 stars
7/07/04 Tony leBlanc Sucks is an understatement 1 stars
7/05/04 Jim Very interesting, and applicable to modern events. Editing tricks kind of annoying. 4 stars
7/01/04 fleaj a man of many dimensions to be expored throughout this documentary 4 stars
5/17/04 Mike Excellent documentary about Mcmanara. Very interesting to anyone intrigue by the era. 5 stars
5/15/04 Jean I Liked it a lot . these old hawks ought to tell their stories as did Mr.McNamara 5 stars
4/13/04 Cameron Slick A numbing, harrowing great documentary. My sixth favorite film of 2003. 5 stars
3/25/04 Helen Bradley hard hitting great viewing bit long gun lobby should see 4 stars
3/16/04 your worst goddamn nightmare great documentary... definitely Oscar worthy... but no breakthrough revelations as Bowling 4 stars
3/07/04 Marce When it comes out on DVD, I'm mailing a copy to the White House. 5 stars
3/01/04 belle intense film with- great cinematography, soundtrack 4 stars
1/22/04 robert s. must see, like .fast food nation. is a must read 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-May-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Mar-2004


Directed by
  Errol Morris

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Robert McNamara



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