The Fog of War

( 8 )

Overview

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...
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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
In this grimly compelling film, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris tackles one of his most perplexing and ambiguous subjects: former defense secretary Robert McNamara, widely identified and in many quarters reviled as the architect of the Vietnam War. The octogenarian McNamara, a former head of Ford Motor Co. whose government service began during World War II, is filmed via Morris's invention, the "Interrotron," a device that allows interviewer and subject to look into each other's eyes while also staring directly into the camera lens. This enables the subject to maintain eye contact with the audience, and given the frequently disturbing nature of McNamara's revelations, it makes for quite an eerie viewing experience. He discusses at length the Allied campaign against Japan in WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the costly, protracted conflict in Vietnam. From his musings Morris extrapolates 11 "lessons," which are presented one at a time to impose film structure. McNamara initially comes across as completely candid and forthright, yet some of his assertions don't stand up under scrutiny, and he refuses to apologize for his role in the Vietnam War -- even though Morris rather pointedly encourages him to do so. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of truth and wisdom in the old bureaucrat's remarks, and Morris draws an impressive picture of this fascinating, if flawed, character. Stock footage, photos, and charts supplement McNamara's reminiscences, and their interpolation makes this Fog a lot clearer than it might have been had the filmmaker relied solely on the "talking head" approach. The 2004 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, The Fog of War is clearly a movie for its moment, even if it reflects upon past events.
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Errol Morris' films stand out because he allows people to explain themselves. Very few figures from the later half of the 20th century would seem to owe the American public more of an explanation than Robert McNamara -- the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. The riveting aspect of The Fog of War is seeing the elderly but mentally sharp McNamara explain his motivations during that remarkable time in history. Covering his entire life, the film starts with McNamara discussing how he invented seat belts. His obsessive attention to detail and organization during this time in his career may remind Morris fans of the scientist in Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. More than any other human subject in Morris' films, McNamara thrives under the unyielding gaze of Morris' camera. His articulate explanations about what transpired in the Kennedy White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis balance political theory with a sense of McNamara's personal understanding of how historic the situation was. These elements make the portions of the film about Vietnam all the more chilling. McNamara never acknowledges that he abandoned the lessons he claimed to have learned earlier in his career, but he is so engaging and confident that Morris himself becomes flustered. Morris' voice gets higher and higher with indignation as he grows more exasperated in his interrogation, but McNamara is unflappable. Although he might lose a bit of control in his voice, Morris is always cool and calculated in his filmmaking. The historical images interact with the new material he shot for the film in such a way that he is able to poetically underscore the humor, the horror, and the gravity of the topics being discussed. The Fog of War is that rare combination of great history, great filmmaking, and great biography.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/11/2004
  • UPC: 043396019157
  • Original Release: 2003
  • Rating:

  • Source: Sony Pictures
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert S. McNamara Participant
Technical Credits
Errol Morris Director, Producer
Doug Abel Editor
Julie Bilson Ahlberg Producer
Ted Bafaloukos Production Designer
Steve Bores Sound/Sound Designer
Robert Chappell Cinematographer
Peter Donahue Cinematographer
Robert Fernandez Executive Producer
Philip Glass Score Composer
Steve Hardy Production Designer
John Kamen Executive Producer
Jon Kamen Executive Producer
Chyld King Editor
Adam Kosberg Associate Producer
John Kusiak Score Composer
Jack Lechner Executive Producer
Robert May Executive Producer
Zachary Morong Animator
Evan Olson Animator, Special Effects
Tom Paul Sound/Sound Designer
Ann Petrone Associate Producer
Frank Scherma Executive Producer
Karen Schmeer Editor
John Sloss Executive Producer
Michael Williams Producer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Provocative but disturbing

    Robert McNamara, one of the most controversial and fascinating men in US history, sits down for the first time and lays bear his tortured soul. Many people have indentified and correctly so, as the architect of the Vienam War. People on the Left and Right have derided him and McNamara stayed silent... until now. Errol Morris's interview with McNamara is incredible. McNamara reveals regret and possibly remorse for that horrible tragedy known as Vietnam. However, McNamara doesn't have any words of contrition. Although, we can fault this man for what he has done, he must be respected for having guts to discuss an embarrassing period in an otherwise successful career for Ford Motor Co., World War II (where he admits he and LeMay were war criminals) and also the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think that this brilliant but flawed man also had alterior motives for this documentary. He never outright talks about Iraq, but he clearly gives the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam as examples that are far from the stratosphere of happening. Substitute the words "Cuban" and "Vietnam" with the words "Iranian" and "Iraq" and you got the same situations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Clausewitz of our time

    As a history teacher I can honestly say this documentary is vital when teaching about the last half of the twentieth century and describing the world today. To have such an important primary source on video reflecting about his mistakes and accomplishments during his tenure as Secretary of Defense is priceless. The most significant aspect of the documentary is his warnings about the future of the world and warfare. Because of the changes in the strategy of war since 9/11 and the prospect of once again living in a dual superpower world, the Fog of War is truly the Clausewitz of our time. How we use McNamara's lessons may decide our future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Assessing leaders upon the shoulder of a giant.

    Robert McNamara provides 20th Century lessons he's learned from his decades of service in the public and private sectors. He was a gifted and ambitious college professor with a talent to assess phenomena with detailed exactitude. WWII provided a venue to where he garnered the attention of key movers and shakers of mid-20th Century American leaders. This documentary provides an forum for an unapoligetic summary of thumbnail guides to assess leaders and their performance in leading human affairs, both national and international. His conclusions are provocative, compelling, and, at times, shocking, but based on hard experience. A must review for concerned citizens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    No to HR 163 and S 89 Draft Bills

    Was a wonderfully made documentary. It had smooth and experimental editing. Face to face interview with Rob McNAmara that is quite chilling and enlightening. There are a lot of issues talked about in this documentary that are not approached anywhere else (to my knowledge).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Fog of War

    This was one of the most interesting politically based documentaries I have ever viewed. It is one of compassion, guilt, sorrow, regret and hope. I recommend this to everyone who experienced the 60's and 70's as well as those who did not. We need to remember and never forget. Peace, there is hope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2012

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews