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26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

eerily relevant lesson for today

Author: SnoopyStyle
5 May 2004

It's a history lesson that many, who did not live through that times, should watch. Like most, I had only a passing understanding of what happened. In fact I listened to those who said Daniel Ellsberg was a traitor, and thought it an acceptable view. Having watched the movie, I now have a better appreciation of the actual story behind the rhetoric. It is a must watch for everybody who thinks history doesn't repeat itself.

James Spader is always good in his films. Sometimes the film is not up to snuf, but the subject matter here elevates everything. It could have been improved if they had a little more money for the Vietnam parts of the movie. Paul Giamatti is also good in this. YOU MUST WATCH THIS.

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20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Technically Brilliant

Author: faustian_jargon from Melbourne, Australia
28 January 2005

This is a wonderful film for anyone who appreciates the craft of film-making. There is a totally consistent vision throughout and it all fits and syncs beautifully. From the direction through to the dialogue, editing and sound. Also some truly inspired performances by the supporting cast. Spader is a little weak, but perhaps that's like saying David Ducovny is weak in the X-Files; when anything else would be camp. By the time you see the end of the film you realise that he has truly studied his character and the resemblance is profound. A brilliant conspiracy film, though as mentioned it's always best to read the book and do your own research before you start quoting facts and figures to your friends. Being a sound guy though, what inspired me most was the overall sound design for the film - the way they blend sound within the film and the musical score and the fact that the use of various instruments is relevant to each sequence in the story - the use of piano during the intimate bedroom scene (he was destined to become a concert pianist) and so forth. In conclusion, I've read above that this was made for TV, which greatly impresses me as I hired it from the video store... made for TV is never like this. And I must mention that the style is perfect - the documentary format of this film is perfect for the subject matter and the creative licence with the editing actually works, I'd be afraid of overdoing it but they throw in fades to itself and layering, throwing white-balance to the wind, it's a flawless production, I'm just so impressed, so inspired to translate this into my own short films and be more daring. 9/10

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18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

History of Lies

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
24 October 2005

In the 70s, the ambitious and brilliant Daniel Ellsberg (James Spader) aims to work in the Defense Department of the USA. His ambition destroys his marriage and he goes to Vietnam to fight. He meets Patricia Marx (Claire Forlani), the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer of toys, and they have a brief affair. Once back in the USA, he works as analyst for the Rand Corporation and he finds secret Defense Department documents showing that the American population was being deceived along four successive governments about the Vietnam War. With the support of Patricia and his close friend Anthony Russo (Paul Giamatti), he decides to disclose the documents to the American people, being accused of treason by the government of Richard Nixon.

"Pentagon Papers" is a surprisingly good political film about the history of lies of the Vietnam War. I did not expect such a good movie, indeed very recommended for students. The direction is excellent, the true story is very tense, and the conclusion, with the statement of the real Daniel Ellsberg is fantastic. James Spader and Claire Forlani show great chemistry in this good TV movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Segredos do Pentágono" ("Secrets of the Pentagon")

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Amazing Story Told Amazingly Well

Author: bertieclem from Santa Monica, CA
31 May 2003

This is a terrific movie about a story that few know. I believe Walter Cronkite called Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers war document the most important story of the latter part of the 20th Century. Performances are really strong and the direction excellent. This is one of those rare moments when a telefilm elevates itself and becomes something very important.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Very timely!

Author: TVPUB from Los Angeles
10 March 2003

Although it places a "black and white" label on today's pro-war vs. anti-war attitudes, this film is an excellent insight into the mechanisms of political maneuvering. It is the truth told by one side - therefore a very good "half truth". Even if it is so authentic, and it refers to Vietnam, the intended analogy with today's issues is very obvious. Definitely a "Must See" for anyone concerned with what's going on with the Iraq war and other political priorities - regardless of one's individual position. (I only wish that the "other side" was intelligent enough to make a case as compelling at this - but that's another issue.)

As a film - it's quite good - maybe an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. All in all - definitely worth your time, and worth recommending it to friends and kids.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Provocative and enthralling

Author: Robert W. ( from Ontario, Canada
25 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Pentagon Papers looked interesting enough when I randomly grabbed it off the shelf. I admit I am not by any means a fan of James Spader, I've always found him stiff and very self serving but in this case it absolutely worked for his character. Based on an incredible true story that few people know or remember and in fact was an enormous turning point in history. It changed the way everyone looked at Government and (if you believe the film) single handedly ended the United States' longest and losing war. Veteran TV director Rod Holcomb did a brilliant job capturing the era without over doing it and more importantly capturing the man that the film was about. He draws you into the story and keeps you in the time for each event. The film is quite short considering it's depth and time line and yet it never feels's almost perfection. A brilliant TV film that is a must see for conspiracy buffs and more importantly history fans.

Spader plays Daniel Ellsberg. A self involved, pontificating but important man who creates war reports and strategies for the U.S. He wants nothing more than to work directly for The President of The United States and change the world with his mind. He lives in a world clouded by the opinion that the government is the be all and end all. He takes this opinion to Vietnam with him when he gets a job with the Secretary of Defense. It's only after he returns to the U.S. and is given a top secret document that he helped write that his whole world is shattered. Spader does a great job showing Ellsberg's deep patriotism, and his life devoted to his work. Spader is actually watchable and does a great job. I would have even given him an Emmy which is something considering I can't stand the guy usually. Claire Forlani also turns out a great performance as reporter Patricia Marx, and Spader's love interest and later wife. She usually plays such soft spoken characters I thought it was just in her blood to do so but Marx is an outspoken, strong female character and Forlani does great. Her and Spader have terrific chemistry and are great together. Paul Giamatti shows up as a co-worked and later peace advocate/hippie and he continues his streak of brilliant support acting. His presence is just welcomed and he always ups the ante of any cast. In this particular role, although small he does a great job. Actor Alan Arkin plays Spader's boss who acquires him The Pentagon Papers. He was Emmy award nominated and his role was good don't get me wrong, he's a terrific actor and been around for many, many years but his role is very small.

The Film covers the brutal war in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and the involvement of 4 sitting Presidents spanning nearly thirty years. It's intriguing and thought provoking and a must see. Brilliant performances on top of an even more brilliant story about a man who changed the face of history quite bravely. For everything this film does in ninety minutes it's remarkable because it never feels rushed and it covers so much. It's one of the most intelligent and entertaining films I've ever seen, and based on fact. Definitely a must see!! 9/10

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Extremely abbreviated

Author: jmuckian ( from Washington State
25 February 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the first movie I have felt a need to review, due to the subject and its importance.


Having read Ellsberg's book on the subject, I was really looking forward to a good dramatization of the events; however, this movie falls short. It is extremely abbreviated in its coverage of the events, often wasting time on relatively insignificant things such as Ellsberg's relationship with Patricia Marx and the excessively long sequence of Tony Russo's partytime in Malibu. This time could have been better spent explaining the events surrounding Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers rather than Ellsberg and his personal life, although that aspect cannot be ignored completely.

For example, there were a lot of things that occurred leading up to Ellsberg actually obtaining the McNamara study, and a lot more between that and actually approaching three congressmen with the study including Ellsberg actually writing NSSM-1 included in the study and meeting with Kissinger about it, attempting to probe him about the papers.

Additionally, one of the most dramatic elements of the book regarding Patricia's reading of the papers is her reaction to the actual language used in the papers, omitted from the film for whatever reason.

There are also a significant number of factual errors as they relate to Ellsberg's book, although the events are not exactly wrong, but more of a misrepresentation of the events - however, many of these can be attributed to the requirement of staying within a two-hour limit.

Overall, my review is tainted for having read the book, but I will give it a 6 of 10. It could be much, much better. If you are interested in the subject, and it is fascinating, read Ellsberg's book "Secrets." It is very much worth the read.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Pentagon Papers

Author: Enchorde from Sweden
27 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Recap: A dramatized story of how Daniel Ellsberg, former employee of the think tank RAND and adviser to the government. Having found discrepancies in the reports coming from the Vietnam War he goes to investigate. He then becomes completely disillusioned. When he, because of his high clearance, gets access to the very top secret Pentagon Papers, a document proving how American government has deceived its people, he decides to make them public.

Comments: Actually a very nice dramatization, with emphasis on drama. It is hard to get some suspense out of a more documentarian approach, but going with more drama you're being able to include more suspense in your story. Without being the most surprising movie ever, the movie does include quite enough suspense. Enough to keep me interested all the way.

More interestingly though, is the use of sound and music. It is really in touch with the movie, enhancing scenes with an emotional score. If you're interested it is worth a watch just to listen to it.

Nothing to remember, but worth to spend the 80 minutes it runs.


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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Truth Will Set You Free

Author: TheMulderFox
20 March 2010

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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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Why you should read Ellsberg's memoir "Secrets"

Author: jonathan-485 from Canada
22 December 2009

I agree completely with jmuckian (above). I've just finished reading "Secrets", the memoir that this movie is based on. Did they do an okay job for a TV movie? Yes. Does it *begin* to convey the flavour of the book, and the creeping disenchantment that Ellsberg experiences over the course of his years spent at the Pentagon, in the Marines, and at Rand? No, and that's what makes the book an absolutely riveting page-turner. I think the most glaring error in the movie is the reduction of his time in-country to a gunfight or two and the surveying of a decimated village in the middle of a monsoon. In reality, his time on the ground and insistence on really seeing what was going on in villages that others only saw from the air made for the best parts of the story. So in balance, I think that if you were willing to sit through this movie, and find the story at all compelling, you really owe it to yourself to read the book.

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