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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.93%
Worth A Look57.41%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 1.85%
Total Crap: 14.81%

6 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Fog of War, The
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by Kevin Thomas

"A complete waste of time. A bit like Vietnam really...."
1 stars

Docu-cinema seems to be the ‘in’ thing at the moment, and it has produced some excellent films, but as with any trend, it is bound to produce some stinkers too, and so we are brought to ‘The Fog of War’.

Robert McNamara was the secretary of Defence for both Kennedy during the Cold War, and Johnson during Vietnam. Now, he is ready to give us inside information about how close we came to nuclear war and how the population was deceived over the goings on in the jungle.

However, the ‘revelations’ about how close we came to nuclear war are not revelations at all. I was taught about it all as part of my Year 9 History course. So watching McNamara pinch his finger and thumb together for the seventeenth time proclaiming ‘We were THIS close to war’ quickly gets tiresome. The same goes for all the ‘startling truths’ revealed about the Vietnam War; none of them are a surprise. If you are going to make a two-hour documentary about wars, it would help if we hadn’t heard at least some of it before.

It also features some of the worst editing I have ever seen put on film. Cuts and edits appear after nearly every sentence uttered, and often in the middle of a sentence. I am fully aware that the man probably had too much to say and it needed to be cut down, but the manner with which his speeches appear on the screen leaves you with serious doubt about what the man was actually saying. All that is missing to turn the editing into a full-blown comedy set piece is a hilariously epileptic clock in the background. Quite simply, if you can’t trust what you are seeing and hearing in a documentary, then what the hell is the point watching it?

Added to this is the truly awful interviewer behind the camera. Not once does his manner ever strike you as impartial. His roaring questions are by turn accusatory, sympathetic and bloodthirsty. Ironically, the interviewer is redundant anyway, as by McNamara’s own admission, he never answers the question asked, but the question he wanted to be asked. Worse still, you are never convinced that this truly is his conscience-settling confession. His over-confident un-humbled manner simply suggests that this is the version of the ‘truth’ that a very clever and successful politician wants to be known for the time being. He even gallingly chokes out a couple of tears for the more poignant confessions.

The only redeeming feature of the movie is one particular sequence where the damage inflicted upon major Japanese cities is translated into the equivalent damage of major US cities. Hearing that 51% of Tokyo was wiped out means little to most people, yet finding out that this is the equivalent of 51% of New York City being decimated heightens the impact somewhat.

Though I can’t comment on the American system (though a friend tells me it stops pretty much at the American Revolution), anybody who has been through the British school system and has a History GCSE will not find anything of surprise here. All that you will find is that old habits die-hard for some people, and this counts double for politicians.

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originally posted: 05/18/04 00:04:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.

User Comments

1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Well made. 4 stars
9/23/07 pin K. Thomas has obviously never seen an Errol Morris film before - too bad. 5 stars
1/11/05 Phil M. Aficionado RSMcN shoulda been JFK's veep; quality film about a quality man, gray areas and all. See it 5 stars
9/23/04 denny will rumsfeld do the same some day? probably no brave enough 4 stars
9/13/04 wovengold Fascinating; my opinion of McNamarra has completely changed. 5 stars
8/30/04 Gray ALL is fair in love and war (axil apologis's suckt) 2 stars
7/28/04 JB Much philosophising, and moralising but no answers, no insights into the man. 1 stars
7/07/04 Tony leBlanc Sucks is an understatement 1 stars
7/06/04 Jim Very interesting, and applicable to modern events. Editing tricks kind of annoying. 4 stars
7/02/04 fleaj a man of many dimensions to be expored throughout this documentary 4 stars
5/18/04 Mike Excellent documentary about Mcmanara. Very interesting to anyone intrigue by the era. 5 stars
5/16/04 Jean I Liked it a lot . these old hawks ought to tell their stories as did Mr.McNamara 5 stars
4/14/04 Cameron Slick A numbing, harrowing great documentary. My sixth favorite film of 2003. 5 stars
3/26/04 Helen Bradley hard hitting great viewing bit long gun lobby should see 4 stars
3/17/04 your worst goddamn nightmare great documentary... definitely Oscar worthy... but no breakthrough revelations as Bowling 4 stars
3/08/04 Marce When it comes out on DVD, I'm mailing a copy to the White House. 5 stars
3/01/04 belle intense film with- great cinematography, soundtrack 4 stars
1/23/04 robert s. must see, like .fast food nation. is a must read 5 stars
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  19-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-May-2004



Directed by
  Errol Morris

Written by

  Robert McNamara

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