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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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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
See full technical specs »
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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

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

Soundtracks

Invitation
(uncredited)
by Philip Glass
Ocean Mountain Music
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User Reviews

 
Grappling with a Difficult Film
7 November 2004 | by pwallachSee 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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