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The Pentagon Papers (2003)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama | History | Thriller  -  9 March 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 1,081 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 4 critic

Defense worker Daniel Ellsberg seeks to publish a series of classified government documents detailing the true nature of America's involvement in the Vietnam War.



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Title: The Pentagon Papers (TV Movie 2003)

The Pentagon Papers (TV Movie 2003) on IMDb 6.7/10

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Patricia Marx
Anthony Russo
Harry Rowen
John McNaughon
Carol Ellsberg
Sean McCann ...
James Downing ...
Neil Sheehan
Jan Butler
Randy Kehler
Senator Fulbright (as George Robertson)
FBI Agent
Roland Rothchild ...
FBI Agent


Daniel Ellsberg, a hawkish analyst for the Rand Corporation think-tank and later for the U.S. government, supports the war in Vietnam until two powerful occurrences: the experience, first-hand, of combat and political turmoil in Vietnam, and the discovery of secret Defense Department documents detailing the deliberate fabrication of reasons to initiate and expand the war. Facing a crisis of conscience, Ellsberg becomes convinced that the American people have not been told the truth about the war, its justifications, or its likely outcome. He decides to expose the secret history of the war in hopes that the American public, its eyes opened, will force the government to end the war. In order to do so, he must risk his career and his freedom, perhaps even his life. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His greatest act of patriotism was an act of treason.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some war images and brief sexuality | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 March 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Pentagon Papers  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The exterior of a bar supposedly located in Saigon clearly displays signs written in the Thai language, and some of the signs are from contemporary times, as evidenced by product logos, rather than from 1965. See more »


Referenced in Spook (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

The Truth Will Set You Free
20 March 2010 | by See all my reviews

Daniel Ellsberg is a brilliant and impassioned military analyst who wants nothing more than to serve his country in the most meaningful way he can. However in the end it seems that his greatest act of patriotism is to commit an act of treason.

Sounds like gripping stuff, the kicker is that it is all based on real life events. Now these types of docudramas can go horridly wrong all too easily in so many ways, however "The Pentagon Papers" manages to cleverly avoid most of these. Half of this is down to a solid script and the other primarily to the director for clearly thinking his decisions through to completion and creating a cohesive film on the whole.

Now I have to confess that I am a fan of James Spaders' work and find him to be a very under rated actor over the whole. Now that being said he does do an admirable job of chronicling the characters proverbial decent into madness (if you will forgive the dramatized language) as he goes from being a trusted insider only three steps removed from the president to being branded a traitor and hunted by the F.B.I.

The movie has some shortcomings and most of them I feel are likely due to time constraints placed on made for TV movies. They could, for instance, have easily taken time to develop the gaps in the story some more. Specifically in terms of the inter personal relationships portrayed and in terms of Elsberg's ever increasing sense of disillusionment in the government he believed in so vehemently just a few years before. As it seems at times, though years have passed in the time line, nothing has really changed for the characters.

That having been said I am of the opinion that the film does capture the general feeling of mistrust in the government that was so prevalent during the early seventies, as more and more revelations of the abuse of power at the highest levels and the lies that were being fed to the public to justify even greater lies became known. Although it is all related from very personal perspectives.

One of the strongest elements was the visual style employed by the director. I was constantly reminded of Oliver Stone in that respect. The uses of period news broadcasts are very cleverly deployed throughout the movie.

So do yourself a favor and watch "The Pentagon Papers", it can be both enlightening and entertaining, definitely 90 odd minutes well spent.

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