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War Made Easy

19 March 2008 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Media Education Foundation

The subtitle of Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp's documentary -- "How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" -- makes its subject matter all too clear.

Based on the book by Norman Solomon, War Made Easy makes its timely arguments with passion and conviction. The film is playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at New York's Quad Cinema.

Narrated by Sean Penn (who else?), the concise, 72-minute film documents the manipulations and deceptions practiced on the public and the media by U.S. government administrations dating back to Johnson. Extensive clips are used to further the intellectual arguments posited by Solomon (who is interviewed extensively) about various wars, most notably Vietnam and the current Iraq conflict.

Although a bit too insular in its viewpoints -- it would have been nice to hear ideas expressed by some figures other than Solomon, despite his impressive articulateness -- the film provides a vivid portrait of the selling of war, from the false Gulf of Tonkin incident that helped propel American involvement in Vietnam to the case for WMDs made by the current administration.

"War" admirably doesn't exclude the news media from complicity. Damning evidence is provided to demonstrate how news outlets eagerly participated in the process, from CNN's recruitment of Pentagon-vetted former generals to provide expert analysis to MSNBC's firing of Phil Donahue, virtually the sole talk show host on television to vociferously argue against the war.

There are endless fascinating video clips, from Walter Cronkite's gushing "Well, colonel, that's a great way to go to war!" while reporting from Vietnam to maverick Sen. Wayne Morse's passionate arguments against presidential authority during the same period.

Although much of what is related in the film has been explored in television documentaries, the intelligence and forcefulness with which they are presented here makes "War" compelling viewing. »

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