Monday, March 15, 2010

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

Starring Robert S. McNamara
Directed by Errol Morris

The Fog of War is a documentary featuring an interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who tells his side of the story involving the major events of the 20th century and the role that he played in them.


This is a fantastic documentary. It allows people to understand why the late defense secretary made the controversial decisions that came to define his career. What unfolds is an intriguing look into how a war should and should not be operated. It discusses the sacrifices that are involved and dives into the question of whether conflict among human beings is inevitable. It is also a personal story about a man approaching his nineties and wanting to redeem himself in the eyes of the history. It does not take a stance on whether Robert McNamara was right or wrong concerning what he did or the lessons that he gives in the documentary itself; it simply tells his side of the story (granted, with editing and creative control issues involved) and allows people to decide for themselves. This is all enhanced with telling archival footage and strong symbolic imagery, which is accompanied by great music from Philip Glass.


When McNamara died in 2009, many people saw him as an intelligent man, but one who would always be known for his role in Vietnam. I do not know how many of them saw the documentary, nor do I know if it would have changed their minds at all. I admit that I did not know about Robert McNamara before I saw this documentary; now that that I have seen it, I know a lot more about him, but still do not know how I really feel about him. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this film because it illustrates how complex one person can be, and in a larger sense, how the world itself can be.