Path to War (2002) - Rotten Tomatoes

Path to War (2002)





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Movie Info

Inspired by author Robert A. Caro's massive biography of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the made-for-cable Path to War retraces the world-shaking events occurring between LBJ's jubilant inaugural in 1965 and his tired, dispirited decision not to seek another presidential term in 1968. At the crux of these tumultuous three years is the war in Vietnam, which forces Johnson (here played by Michael Gambon) to shunt his proposed "Great Society" to the back burner. Though famous in political circles as a wrangler and compromiser, LBJ cannot seem to do anything right in pursuing the war; nor are his chief advisors, the hawkish Robert McNamara (Alec Baldwin) and the dove-ish Clark Clifford (Donald Sutherland), able to forge a permanent policy agreement. As Clifford warns Johnson that "escalation will ruin you, and all the great good you want to do," McNamara presses for a continuation of the war lest America lose face and Vietnam fall to the Communists. The story unfolds with the inexorability of a Shakespearean tragedy, with Johnson as a modern-day Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear rolled into one. Of interest to non-history buffs is the appearance of two original cast members of the 1969 film M*A*S*H: Donald Sutherland as Clark Clifford and Tom Skerritt as William Westmoreland. Directed by political-movie veteran John Frankenheimer, Path to War made its HBO cable network debut on May 18, 2002.

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Michael Gambon
as Lyndon B. Johnson
Donald Sutherland
as Clark Clifford
Alec Baldwin
as Robert McNamara
Felicity Huffman
as Lady Bird Johnson
John Aylward
as Dean Rusk
Bruce McGill
as George Ball
Cliff De Young
as McGeorge Bundy
John Valenti
as Jack Valenti
Chris Eigeman
as Bill Moyers
James Frain
as Dick Goodwin
Curtis L. McClarin
as Martin Luther King Jr.
Frederic Forrest
as Gen. Earl Wheeler
Tom Skerritt
as Gen. William Westmoreland
Victor Slezak
as Norman Morrison
Philip Baker Hall
as Everett Dirkson
Gerry Becker
as Walt Rostow
Sarah Paulson
as Luci Baines Johnson
Diana Scarwid
as Marny Clifford
Francis Guinan
as Nick Katzenbach
Patricia Kalember
as Mrs. McNamara
Gary Sinise
as George Wallace
Robert Cicchini
as Joseph Califano
Albert Hall
as Roy Wilkins Jr.
J.K. Simmons
as CIA Briefer
Peter Jacobson
as Adam Yarmolinsky
Gina-Raye Carter
as Lynda Baines Johnson
Sarah Brooke
as Mrs. George Ball
Channing Chase
as Mrs. Dean Rusk
Kevin Cooney
as First Journalist
Darin Cooper
as Secret Service Agent
Reed Diamond
as Duty Officer
Wayne Grace
as Marine Corps Chief of Staff
Gordon Anthony Davis
as Air Force Chief of Staff
Jan Kurt Johannes
as Navy Chief of Staff
Davis Henry
as Cpl. McCaffrey
Doug Hyun Kim
as White House Photographer
Madison Mason
as John McCone
Randy Oglesby
as John Stennis
Lizbeth Schottland
as Mrs. Moyers
Audrey Wasilewski
as Major Wolfson
Brenda Wehle
as Juanita Roberts
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Critic Reviews for Path to War

All Critics (3) | Top Critics (2)

It's LBJ as King Lear instead of Big Bully, tendentious but absorbing, with Baldwin the pleasant surprise.

February 1, 2018 | Full Review…

Directed confidently by John Frankenheimer, Path to War is a powerful expression of mourning.

January 23, 2018 | Full Review…

The well-produced political drama plays like the TV movie it is.

August 1, 2015 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Path to War

A thorough and effective examination of the Johnson presidency, focusing on the escalating involvement in Vietnam that would eventually undue his administration. Very well written, the film always feels realistic, often re-creating scenes with verbatim historical transcripts. Michael Gambon's Lyndon Johnson is uncanny, he captures the overbearing, homespun demeanor he was known for, while also replicating his mannerisms perfectly. Overall, I would argue the film was far too kind to Johnson, conveying him as more of a victim of circumstance, who found himself in over his head and refusing to cut his losses, and whose otherwise lofty achievements (the mythical "Great Society" programs of dubious effectiveness) go unnoticed. Still, it was very effective in showing a conflicted man, reminding me almost of Oliver Stone's Nixon. Similarly, Alec Baldwin's McNamara was surprisingly authentic, showing a brilliant, though naive, man of cool demeanor. The running time is a bit bloated, but well worth it for history/political buffs. 4/5 Stars

Jeffrey Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer

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