MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Down 325 this week

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

8.2
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.2/10 from 16,697 users   Metascore: 87/100
Reviews: 153 user | 139 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.

Director:

Watch Trailer
0Check in
0Share...

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb at Comic-Con 2014

Follow our coverage of Comic-Con 2014, direct from San Diego July 23-27 in our Comic-Con section.


User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 26 titles
created 05 Sep 2011
 
a list of 46 titles
created 03 Sep 2012
 
a list of 30 titles
created 16 Dec 2012
 
a list of 45 titles
created 25 Mar 2013
 
a list of 28 titles
created 7 months ago
 

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

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

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003) on IMDb 8.2/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

User Polls

Won 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | Crime | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Megan Ambuhl Graner, Javal Davis, Ken Davis
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A comprehensive look at the Bush Administration's conduct of the Iraq war and its occupation of the country.

Director: Charles Ferguson
Stars: Campbell Scott, Gerald Burke, Ali Fadhil
Why We Fight (2005)
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? Jarecki's shrewd and intelligent polemic would seem to give an affirmative answer to each of these questions.

Director: Eugene Jarecki
Stars: Gore Vidal, John McCain, Ken Adelman
Documentary | Crime | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.

Director: Alex Gibney
Stars: Alex Gibney, Brian Keith Allen, Moazzam Begg
The War Tapes (2006)
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Called up for service in Iraq, several members of the National Guard were given digital video cameras. This film, edited from their footage, provides a perspective on a complex and troubled conflict.

Director: Deborah Scranton
Stars: Zack Bazzi, Duncan Domey, Ben Flanders
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Documentary about war photographer James Nachtwey, considered by many the greatest war photographer ever.

Director: Christian Frei
Stars: James Nachtwey, Christiane Amanpour, Hans-Hermann Klare
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Documentary portraying the actions of U.S. corporate contractors in the U.S.-Iraq war. Interviews with employees and former employees of such companies as Halliburton, CACI, and KBR suggest... See full summary »

Director: Robert Greenwald
Stars: Shereef Akeel, Hassan Al-Azzawi, Al Haj Ali
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Interviews with varied U.S officials and experts offer a deconstruction on the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq in the wake of 9/11.

Director: Robert Greenwald
Stars: John Dean, David Albright, Robert Baer
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Stories from modern day Iraq as told by Iraqis living in a time of war, occupation and ethnic tension.

Director: James Longley
Stars: Mohammed Haithem, Suleiman Mahmoud, Muqtada al-Sadr
Armadillo (2010)
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

In February 2009 a group of Danish soldiers accompanied by documentary filmmaker Janus Metz arrived at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Metz and cameraman... See full summary »

Director: Janus Metz Pedersen
Restrepo (2010)
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Stars: The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Juan 'Doc Restrepo, Dan Kearney
Baraka (1992)
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.

Director: Ron Fricke
Edit

Cast

Cast overview:
...
Himself
Edit

Storyline

Documentary about Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, who subsequently became president of the World Bank. The documentary combines an interview with Mr. McNamara discussing some of the tragedies and glories of the 20th Century, archival footage, documents, and an original score by Philip Glass. Written by Richard Latham

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for images and thematic issues of war and destruction | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

14 January 2004 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Fog of War  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$41,449 (USA) (19 December 2003)

Gross:

$4,193,943 (USA) (14 May 2004)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (theatrical)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Errol Morris's wife jokingly nicknamed his interviewing device the Interrotron, which is what it later became known as. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[Per contact at the Errol Morris Foundation, the date is 8/5/1964, and the clip is from Press Conference on The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, National Archives #111-LC-48220]
Robert McNamara: [archival footage from the press conference on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 5 August 1964] Is this chart at a reasonable height for you? Or do you want it lowered? All right. Earlier tonight - first let me ask the TV, are you ready? All set?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Director of Officeland Security: Jackpot Junior See more »


Soundtracks

Statistical Control
(uncredited)
by Philip Glass
Ocean Mountain Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Morris Versus McNamara and the Political Pundits of the Left
2 February 2004 | by (Portland, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

If you're like Errol Morris, and you want to make documentaries about unusual personalities, it's one thing to choose obscure subjects, people like Fred Leuchter (aka "Mr. Death") or men that excel in topiary hedge sculpture or the study of the African mole rat (two of the people interviewed in "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control"). Not many critics out there will be waiting to pounce if you don't get things just right about the likes of people like these. But it's quite another matter if you choose Robert S. McNamara, one of the last century's most towering, controversial, and - some would say - evil characters. "Fog of War" distills more than 20 hours of interviews that Morris conducted with McNamara over a span of two years, when McNamara was in his mid-80s, and the subjects - all various McNamara ventures - range from "his" World War II, through his days at Ford Motor Company, the Cuban missile crisis, and - finally and mainly - his views of the Vietnam War.

As a result, Morris now finds himself in a no man's land of critical crossfire. On the one hand, film critics - people like Steven Holden, Roger Ebert and J. Hoberman - uniformly praise this work. While political pundits of the left - people like Eric Alterman and Alexander Cockburn of "The Nation" - lacerate Morris, accusing him of being overmatched, manipulated, not doing his homework (i.e., being naïve and unprepared), and thus allowing his film to be nothing but a conduit for the formidably crafty McNamara's continuing campaign of self aggrandizement and distortions of history. Whew. I think the controversy here is based on a misconstruction of the film's purposes by the pundits. First, it is quite clear that McNamara, in full command of his fierce intellectual and interpersonal powers, is not about to be pushed around by an assertive interviewer. McNamara is gonna say what McNamara wants to say, period. To drive home this point, Morris gives us a brief epilogue in which he asks McNamara a few trenchant questions about his sense of responsibility for the Vietnam War, why he didn't speak out against the war, and so on. And McNamara won't bite. He stonewalls Morris absolutely, with comments like, "I am not going to say any more than I have." Or, "I always get into trouble when I try to answer a question like that."

More importantly, it doesn't matter very much if Morris or McNamara does not get all the facts straight. If the political pundits went to the movies more often, at least to Morris's films, they would know that his primary interest is in the character of his subjects - their integrity and beliefs and ways of explaining or rationalizing themselves and their lives: he's into people way more than into facts. "Fog of War" is not an oral history, it is the study of a person. For all that, in my estimation, Morris does get on film as close to an acceptance of responsibility for his actions in two wars as McNamara is likely ever to make, short of some dramatic, delirium-driven deathbed confession. He speaks of the likelihood that he and Curtis LeMay would have been deemed war criminals for the fire bombing of Japanese cities, had our side lost. And he speaks clearly when he says "we were wrong" in not seeing that the Vietnam War was a civil war, not a phase of some larger Cold War strategy by the USSR or China. What do the pundits want?

Nor was it Morris's purpose to use Santayana's lesson about repeating history to rail at Bush's preemptive war in Iraq. In fact Morris decided to make this film way back in 1995, after reading several books by McNamara and concluding that he was a quintessential man of the 20th Century, embodying all that was so outstandingly smart and sophisticated and ultimately destructive. The interviews wrapped sometime in 2001, the year before Iraq. As usual in Morris's films, the editing is superb, with seamless use of archival footage and special visuals created for this film. I do think Morris gratuitously flattered McNamara by organizing the film around 11 platitudes of his - many of them banal aphorisms known to most high school graduates, students of martial arts, or your grandmother (e.g., "get the data," "empathize with your enemy," "rationality will not save us," "belief and seeing are both often wrong").

Political pundits, mired in interpreting concretisms from the historical record, not only see too few films but also don't take seriously the symbolic visuals and sounds offered here. Philip Glass has created an edgy, anxious score that feels just right, just creepy enough for the macabre subjects at hand. I'm also thinking of the scenes when McNamara is recounting his pioneering (he claims) studies of auto safety. As we listen to him, Morris shows us human skulls wrapped in white linen being dropped several floors through a stairwell to smash upon the floor below, all in slow motion. The effect is chilling and speaks volumes about McNamara's famed passionless capacity to treat human carnage as a matter of statistical calculation. It is through such poetic characterization that Morris keeps the game with McNamara in balance.


122 of 127 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
McNamara was a troubled man filmfanaticNorCal
Am I the only one bothered by the targeting of 'wooden houses' of Tokyo Errand
Tried for War Crimes? kgrayson
would rumsfeld do one of these? Main14
best documentaries. meeyakey22
Rule 2. - G W BUSH jnr am96

Contribute to This Page