Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

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

Directed by Errol Morris

Starring Robert McNamara

Author

McNamara’s led an interesting life. He’s eloquent, still sharp as a tack, and he’s got some stories to tell. It’s actually nice to see him getting emotional about some of these topics.

But the structure of the documentary prevents the film from carrying the weight that it could. We have eleven “lessons” that seem forced, seemingly selected and assembled after the interview was long over. It probably took a lot of work to find and edit the right McNamara clips and footage to support each of these “lessons”. And what we’re left with is a meandering series of disconnected diatribes. It convolutes McNamara’s real influence on America’s recent military history.

If Morris was set on dividing things up into lessons, I wonder if he could have let McNamara come up with these lessons himself. Give him a bit of time to organize his material and craft his dialogue to address these lessons that he really is passionate about.

But then I wonder how much better could this have been if they had just presented McNamara’s accounts in chronological order, almost as if it was a biography of the man? With such a straightforward approach, it would be easy to see how influential McNamara really was. And it would certainly make it easier to follow the military conflicts that McNamara and Morris explore.

Nice supplemental footage, and a beautiful flute score.

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