Thursday, March 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Fog of War (2003) ****

PG-13, 95 min.
Director: Errol Morris
Featuring: Robert S. McNamara

A few nights ago my wife asked me for some ideas of films based on historical U.S. fact from World War II to the present day. It was a tough request. There are a great many films that deal with U.S. politics at different points in that era. Vietnam and the Nixon administration are the basis of many different ones. Unfortunately that was a pretty broad period of time, and I had trouble settling on where to start. Finally, I remembered this Oscar-winning documentary from Errol Morris, the master of the documentary interview.

“The Fog of War” tells of the public life of former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in his own words. Certainly his are biased words when he is his own subject, but what better window into the modern history of this country than through the first hand experience of a man who has held post in some degree or another in many of this country’s most important events. On top of being Secretary of Defense during two of the last century’s most important military conflicts, McNamara also served as a statistician for one of the most successful generals of World War II, he was the first non-Ford family member to hold the chair of president of the Ford Motor Company, and in his 80s when this was filmed was still in complete control of his faculties and memories. It’s an astounding account.

In terms of chronology, it may not be the best place to get your facts straight as Morris chooses to edit the documentary in a very conversational style, allowing McNamara to go off on tangents and skip around from one period of his life to others. Of course, this is all very structured by Morris’s direction and his editing team. McNamara’s life experiences are broken down into eleven lessons, and in the end there are still elements of the Vietnam War he refuses to comment about. It’s a rather remarkable document on some of this country’s darker moments in history.


RKC said...

a mesmerizing film. The effeciency expert so adroit at killing when operating in the moral clarity of the "just war" loses his footing when the morality proves elusive and Hamlet is president.

Andrew Wells said...

I took me a few days to figure out who was leaving these posts. Thank you for the comments. I'm glad you enjoy reading my thoughts on these films.