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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 Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

THE FOG OF WAR: ELEVEN LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT S. MCNAMARA, by famous documentarian Errol Morris (FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL), is much more than just a talking-head interview with an ex-politician. Using archival footage and old audio tapes, the movie takes us behind the scenes as three different presidents (Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson) wage wars and try to avoid them.

Robert McNamara, one of the "whiz kids" who turned around Ford Motor Company, was one of "the best and the brightest" hired by JFK to be his Secretary of Defense, a position he kept for seven years through much of the escalation period of the Vietnam War. McNamara wants badly to leave you with the impression that, if his advice had been followed, we would have cut our losses and gotten out somewhat sooner.

Called "Mr. I-have-all-the-answers McNamara" by the press, he ruminates on the waging of war. Morris organizes McNamara's thought into eleven different truisms, from "Empathize with your enemy" to "Never say never." In the latter section, for example, he advises officials to "never say never" and to never answer the question posed but to answer instead the question that they wished had been asked.

Extremely intelligent and eager to brag about it, McNamara sees historical facts with unwavering accuracy, or so he believes. Certainly much of what he says is controversial and thought provoking as is his claim that, if we had lost World War II, the American military would have been prosecuted as war criminals for the firebombing of Japan. He says this, in his matter-of-fact style, not to admit any guilt or to express any regrets but just to reflect on actions taken.

As fascinating as the film is -- and trust me, you're going to be glued to the screen -- it's not at all clear what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from his reflections other than that war is hell and it would be preferable if mankind could just live together in peace.

THE FOG OF WAR runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for "images and thematic issues of war and destruction" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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