2000s The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

Published on July 17th, 2007 | by Chris

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The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On July 17, 2007
Last modified:October 8, 2012

Summary:

Interesting solely in the sense of a documentary, I'm giving this a seven. I can't really say that I enjoyed it, but really how much can you. It felt more like two hours sitting through your average Modern American History 101 lecture, really.

The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)In 2000, former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara sat down for an hour-long interview with Errol Morris for the PBS series, "First Person."  Over eight hours of interview material later, this semi-autobiographical documentary was born.

McNamara is best known for being SecDef during the Kennedy years and the Cuban missile crisis, and later for his role during the first part of the Vietnam War.

Fog of War - Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara indeed runs through eleven "lessons" that he learned during his life, dealing with the nature of war and the nature of humanity.

He outlines his early years and his experiences with the end of World War I, on through his education and eventual involvement as a statistician for the Army Air Corps during World War II.  From there he talks about his career with Ford (the auto company), Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and there are a few tidbits about appearances he made after that period.

There were two aspects of this film that were most interesting to me.  Firstly, the role he and his office played during the final days of WWII, and how some of the tenets of statistics came to shape how the war was fought, and how ultimately that lead to the "efficiency" mindset that permeates nearly every aspect of military and business life today.

Secondly, regardless of your opinions on the current state of affairs in Iraq, the parallels that are shown (unintentionally, I might add, since this was filmed before 2003) to Vietnam are distinct and immutable.  There are several statements on McNamara's behalf, and of Johnson, Kennedy et al, that could have been echoed today by anyone in the current administration.  It's as if you could say, "That sounds familiar!"

And also, regardless of your opinion of McNamara (there are many many widely varying ones) he comes across many times as less sincere, at least thats how I percieved it.  At other times you can genuinely feel his sincerity.  I guess that's where a lot of his criticism comes from.  Really I can't say for sure, that's just an opinion.

Still, overall you're left with a picture of someone coming from the upper echelons of government society, aka your average politician, and that's probably unfortunate.  Mostly this stems from his penchant for passing blame for basically everything to do with Vietnam off onto the shoulders of Johnson.  Again, who really knows for sure.

Interesting solely in the sense of a documentary, I'm giving this a seven.  I can't really say that I enjoyed it, but really how much can you.  It felt more like two hours sitting through your average Modern American History 101 lecture, really.

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Description

The Fog of War, the movie that finally won Errol Morris the best documentary Oscar, is a spellbinder. Morris interviews Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and finds a uniquely unsettling viewpoint on much of 20th-century American history...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Brand: MCNAMARA,ROBERT
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Robert McNamara

Features

  • Condition: New
  • Format: DVD
  • Anamorphic; Closed-captioned; Color; Dolby; DVD; Subtitled; Widescreen; NTSC

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest Reflections on a Tragic Era, November 14, 2012
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This review is from: The Fog of War (DVD)
This DVD sat on my shelf for six years until I "retired" from my second career as a high school history teacher. I regret that I waited so long to watch it. In my first career, I spent 30 years as a field artilleryman including a tour in Vietnam. For most of my adult life, I blamed McNamara for everything that went wrong in Vietnam and held him personally accountable for the deaths of 58,000 Americans and 100,000s of Vietnamese. Although I remain conflicted over our involvement in Vietnam, "The Fog of War" has caused me to begin to reassess my long-held animus against McNamara. I no longer judge him as harshly as I once did.
I met him twice. Once, in India in the mid-90s while I was the defense attaché at our embassy in New Delhi, he visited as a private citizen. The other time, I was an instructor at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and he was participating in a seminar. I am thankful that on both occasions I treated him with respect even... Read more

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Try to Learn...and pass it on", May 24, 2011
By 
Connie (She who hikes with dogs) (Eight miles from the Mexican border in Arizona) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Fog of War (DVD)
Even though this documentary doesn't reveal anything shocking or controversial about the man, it is still a decent look at the man who was blamed for the Vietnam War. But is this a just and fair assessment of the man who for seven years was the Secretary of Defense?

Robert S McNamara sat down in 2003 to talk about his life lessons during such a crucual time in American history. And even though viewers were hoping to hear regret come out of his mouth reference the Vietnam War, he made this documentary not so much as repentance, but as a warning to the new generation not to get too hopeful with the war in Iraq which by then had already started. He was 85 years old at the time this was made, and a staunch opponent to the Iraq War only because he knew early on in this war that this war would bog down the administration and become a very unpopular war.

The first 45 minutes are basically McNamara talking about his earlier life and his early time with JFK and the... Read more

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth watching...., December 5, 2010
By 
Steve W. (central Florida) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Fog of War (DVD)
I had passed this dvd title several times while wandering the aisles of Blockbuster over the years. I recently rented it finally and was very pleased I did. I then ordered it on Amazon to keep among the modest collection of movies I own.

I was a teenager during the Nixon years and I remember the evening news with the Vietnam casualty totals reported like it was the Dow Jones average. The draft ended just before I turned 18 years of age. I went on to college and didn't serve in the military...(a reality I regretted later in life when I finally learned what was important to me). If you are of similar age, you may remember protest attitudes. Over the years I've ejoyed reading history, and invested some effort reading about the subject of Vietnam. "Fire In The Lake", Karnow's "Vietnam, A History", "The Best and The Brightest", just to name a few better known books. And as it turned out in life, I developed friendships with a few military veterans of that era... Read more

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The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003) Chris

Summary: Interesting solely in the sense of a documentary, I'm giving this a seven. I can't really say that I enjoyed it, but really how much can you. It felt more like two hours sitting through your average Modern American History 101 lecture, really.

3.5


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



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