Movie Review: Fog Of War


Our second movie Saturday night was much better than the first - The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara by the acclaimed documentary director Errol Morris. Winner of the 2004 Oscar for best documentary, Fog of War interviews McNamara about World War 2, nuclear bombs, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War and a host of other subjects.

Alright, I know what you are thinking - "Oh jeez, how boring! A talking head interview with some nobody.".  Let me count the ways you are wrong:

  1. It's an Errol Morris film, so you know the editing, visuals and style are going to be completely original and arresting. Nobody does documentaries like Mr. Morris
  2. The Philip Glass score is memorable, strong and, yes, even rhythmic.
  3. Robert McNamara was one of the most influential, non-presidential people of the twentieth century. From number crunching the firebombing of Tokyo that killed hundreds of thousands, to being an early and vocal supporter of The Domino Theory, to pushing our involvement in the Vietnam War, few men have had a bigger effect on 20th century history.
The "Eleven Lessons" are pretty banal, though:

  • 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.

But still, a fascinating portrait of a towering intellect and seemingly soulless ego. He does sound moderately regretful when talking about the Tokyo firestorm, but in general, he shies away from accepting fuller responsibility for the 50,000+ casualties of Vietnam. The parallels with Iraq are truly eerie though, making this an even more important movie to watch today.


So happy to see you review this.  I've been meaning to rent this one too.  By the way, his next documentary is sure to be controversial.

Abu Ghraib - might as well tackle a simple subject:-) I notice it has actors,so it is probably going to be more like Thin Blue Line (with re-enactments) rather than Fog.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on June 20, 2007 4:23 AM.

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