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

The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Former corporate whiz kid Robert McNamara was the controversial Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, during the height of the Vietnam War. This Academy Award-winning documentary, augmented by archival footage, gives the conflicted McNamara a platform on which he attempts to confront his and the U.S. government's actions in Southeast Asia in light of the horrors of modern warfare, the end of ideology and the punitive judgment of history. Written by Jwelch5742

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

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Release Date:

5 March 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Fog of War  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$4,193,943 (USA) (14 May 2004)
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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?
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Crazy Credits

Director of Officeland Security: Jackpot Junior See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Behind the Moon
(uncredited)
by Philip Glass
Ocean Mountain Music
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User Reviews

 
Grappling with a Difficult Film
7 November 2004 | by (Middletown, CT) – See all my reviews

If you possess an especially smug view of history's finality, this film may not do a great deal to impress you. For the rest of us, however, Errol Morris presents a truly complex picture of a clearly complex man.

Many of the reviews I read of the film complain that there doesn't seem to be a main point that emerges from the film or its eleven "lessons," which are admittedly too cute by half in many cases. The point, though, is the complexity itself. The point is that history is bigger than its main players, and inscrutably difficult to judge in a definitive moral sense. I don't think I will ever forget McNamara's probing, clearly emotional questioning of the rules of war or the lack thereof, when he discusses how one evening he and general Curtis LeMay decided to burn to death 100,000 people in the Tokyo firebombing. The portrait of McNamara, as well as the two presidents he served, is one of human beings through and through, with all the fallibility and conflictedness that entails. The central quandary of war emerges for the viewer to see: it is the business of killing people, and that means that mistakes cause people to die needlessly.

As I said, this film, taken in the right spirit, is deeply challenging. I would recommend it to anyone who has grappled with the enormity and awfulness of the history of the twentieth century.


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