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

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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.

Director:

Errol Morris
Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Robert McNamara ... Himself
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Storyline

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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 March 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Fog of War See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$41,449, 21 December 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$4,193,943, 16 May 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The "Eleven Lessons" listed in the film are as follows:
  • 1. Empathize with your enemy.
  • 2. Rationality will not save us.
  • 3. There's something beyond one's self.
  • 4. Maximize efficiency.
  • 5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  • 6. Get the data.
  • 7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
  • 8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
  • 9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
  • 10. Never say never.
  • 11. You can't change human nature.
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 You're the Worst: Fog of War, Bro (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

100,000 People
(uncredited)
by Philip Glass
Ocean Mountain Music
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User Reviews

 
'The Banality of Evil, Part 2'
21 April 2006 | by rogueforteSee all my reviews

I once read Adolf Eichmann's capacity to engineer The Holocaust described as 'The Banality of Evil' and that pretty much sums up other soulless, high-level bureaucrats like McNamara and Rumsfeld, as well. They effortlessly block out the horrendous nature of what they've been tasked to do by the rationalization of how brilliant and efficient they were, even if that brilliance and efficiency causes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

The mere fact that McNamara, to this day, loves to continue talking and dwelling on his life's 'accomplishments' as a source of pride is a textbook study on the psychology of how anyone, no matter how supposedly brilliant, can rationalize what are otherwise despicable acts.

And just like a high-ranking Nazi war criminal, McNamara is quite clever and does a good job of trying to convince the viewer that he's somewhat repentant of what he's done, but it's readily apparent that his real agenda in making this documentary is to make sure everyone knows what a clever bastard he was throughout his life in whatever he was instructed to do. It's this 'brilliance' that is his ultimate absolution for the consequences of his actions.

This is the real reason he stuck it out with Johnson, even though he claims to have disagreed with his policies. Had McNamara even an ounce of conscious, he would have quit immediately when Johnson began the Vietnam escalation but he just couldn't bring himself to believe that anyone else could do as good a job of prosecuting the war. Likely as not, Rumsfeld will make the same claim years from now.

It's astonishing how similar McNamara is to Donald Rumsfeld in virtually every aspect. I guess we'll have to wait another thirty odd years or so to watch 'The Banality of Evil, Part 3', when Donald Rumsfeld makes his attempt at getting people to believe he's repentant for what will surely be judged as equally (if not more) catastrophic-as-Vietnam 'Iraq experience'.


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