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Fog Of War

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Fog Of War

Starring: Errol Morris
Director: Errol Morris
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: February 2004
Genre: Documentary

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

This documentary is subtitled "Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara" and divided into sections, separated by the trenchant observations by the former U.S. defense secretary who served under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. Now in his late '80s, he has often been accused of masterminding the Vietnam War, which cost more than 58,000 American lives and, according to McNamara, 3.4 million Vietnamese lives.

The gist of McNamara's reflections is that - in wartime - those in power really don't know much about what's happening. For example, during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the White House received two conflicting messages from Nikita Khrushchev. Through "blind luck" - and advice by Soviet Union Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson - Kennedy was able to avoid a nuclear disaster. McNamara is also candid about the United States erroneously believing that the Vietnam conflict was part of the Cold War, rather than a new chapter in a long-standing colonial war on Asian soil. And he implies eerie Vietnam-Iraq parallels in the current war on terror.

Filmmaker Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line") utilizes taped White House conversations and archival newsreel footage that is cleverly intercut with a lucid one-on-one interview with the thoughtful and articulate McNamara, whose views are punctuated by Philip Glass's insistent score. The title derives from McNamara's assertion that "war is so complex (that) we cannot comprehend all the variables." Our human errors only become clear in hindsight. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Fog of War" is an unnerving, ambivalent 8, particularly recommended for history buffs and those interested in 20th century American foreign policy.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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