The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara Reviews
McNamara sharing lessons he has learned appears to be a major focus of his in the documentary, but unfortunately the eleven lessons shown on screen are only loosely, if at all, tied to McNamaraÔ(TM)s discussions of his career. This leads to poor structure of the documentary, which is really the only drawback of an otherwise highly informative film that shows a different side of Robert McNamara. As such, McNamaraÔ(TM)s interviews are both the greatest strength and the greatest weaknesses of this film. Despite a confusing chronology, overall this is a good documentary that I would recommend to any American interested in our nation's history, especially those who experienced the Vietnam War or teachers who wish to add to their curriculum when discussing McNamara and the Vietnam War.
Several of these lessons include: you can´┐ 1/2 1/2 1/2(TM)t change human nature, rationality alone will not save us, belief and seeing are often both wrong, and never say never. As the film goes more in depth into each of these lessons, one can admire the expertise and knowledge of McNamara and his analysis of the events that transpired while he served in his various callings. I believe that if all the nations of the world closely followed and respected these guidelines, there would be much less tension between nations and therefore less war.
The end of the film left the taste of sour milk in my mouth due to the aggressive tone McNamara took when asked his opinion of interviews. Because of his distrust of speaking truthfully, it seemed to disqualify all of the information he gave to the watcher in the past hour and a half of film. I finished the doc with the feeling of having wasted a lot of time listening to a man lie for an extended period of time, trying to excuse the murder of thousands of people due to ignorance. I would not recommend watching this film unless you are open to hearing a point of view so aggressively unsettling that it makes you queasy.
In the film, McNamara discusses his opinions on the Vietnam War and how close we as a nation came to full blown nuclear war, due to simple misunderstandings on both sides. With the Vietnamese waging civil war, believing that the US has come to interject themselves where they don´┐ 1/2 1/2(TM)t belong, and the US believing that the Vietnamese are fighting Russian communism, as well as both sides toting and threatening nuclear weapons, the threat of annihilation loomed over the world, with everyone of either side believing what they wanted to believe. The ultimate question the film addresses is how much evil do we have to do before doing a certain amount of good.
Overall, this film was sad but educational and meant for an audience with a background understanding of the Vietnam war. I found MorrisÔ(TM)s film techniques very influential in the way of persuading the audience to believe one side over another and would recommend this film to be shown in history or language classes for either the educational side of the Vietnam war and what went down, or the rhetorical strategies side.
The film certainly works to the emotions, given how horrible a subject war is, and yet it never feels like an attack on either McNamara or even the conflicts that he was involved in. Instead, there's a real sense of engaging with the issues on both sides and, whether you follow McNamara's world view or not, you can't help but understand it. Is war inevitable and, if so, what responsibilities do we have towards our fellow humans when we conduct it? Heavy questions indeed but ones that shouldn't be avoided.