Fog of War, The (USA; 95 min.)

directed by: Errol Morris
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Bob in response to Diane: I guess since around THE THIN BLUE LINE Morris’ style has been pretty much set, and he’s just using the same methods to explore different ideas. I still appreciate his work, but there were some elements of FOG OF WAR that I found a bit tiresome. The dominoes, for example, were bad enough. Watching them run backwards was a little much."

Bob G. says: "Errol Morris gets up-close-and-personal (in more ways than one) with Robert McNamara. Even if the former Secretary of Defense did not deliver some of the most profound, thought-provoking statements ever uttered here, the film would still be a fascinating portrait of Man as Consummate Politician. It is obvious, from this film, why McNamara has been both extremely successful in his life, and also vilified by much of the American public. Somehow I doubt that if you met the guy at a party and talked to him for two hours, you would get this far beneath the surface and get as complete a picture of a complex, extremely cagey man. But maybe that's why Errol Morris is making award winning documentaries, and most of us are not." 5 cats

Diane says: "Just chiming in to say I am tired of Errol Morris' style, even though I've seen less than half of his oeuvre (A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, FAST, CHEAP, & OUT OF CONTROL, MR. DEATH, and now this one). The bright and shiny look, the injection of graphics, the talking heads removed from context.... The insistent Glass music seemed all too familiar also. It feels like my brain is being forcefed. I liked MR. DEATH very much, but this may be the last Morris docu for me."
Janet says: "I was prepared to see a documentary that offered parallels between the
Vietnam War and today's war in Iraq, but this film offers more than that. The audience spends an hour and a half watching a thoughtful, intelligent man in his mid-80s account for his life. What good has he done, and what harm? This last accounting is something we'll all have to do---what Erik Erikson called the final developmental crisis of integrity versus despair.

"Darned if I didn't start thinking about THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Remember how Heather, leading her group of three student filmmakers into the woods, kept screwing up and making bad decisions? Towards the end of the film, when there was obviously no escape, a woman at the back of my audience muttered, "Yeah---scream, bitch, scream!" How could she not identify with Heather, who was clearly a kind of Everyleader? Anyone who has had to lead, not just in war but at jobs or volunteer work, risks making a wrong call, taking other people into bad situations. While Heather had only seconds to reflect on her bad calls, McNamara has years.

"Both technically and thematically, Morris is so masterful that you can take in the film without thinking what you might have done differently. THE FOG OF WAR is so clean that it points up the clutter in other historical documentaries. Morris doesn't supplement McNamara's words with a cluster of other talking heads, nor does he pan across photos like Ken Burns. He selects iconic, often witty images. He positions McNamara at the left or right of the frame until he states that he is a war criminal; then he appears dead center. The score by Philip Glass adds gentle paranoia.

"Four cats, but too cool and clinical to get my best documentary nom."


Michael says: "THE FOG OF WAR is the latest documentary by Cambridge filmmaker Errol Morris (MR DEATH, FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL). This portrait of former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, is essentially an in-depth interview covering his life from childhood through his controversial career in WW2 and the Vietnam War. McNamara seems to have done a lot of self-reflection in the 30+ years since his term, and he all-but takes responsibility for the Vietnam War.

Structured as a series of 11 lessons of life, McNamara is an interesting subject. In some ways, I wish I knew more about the man's career to balance the information I learned in the film, but Morris' film is an illuminating and powerful portrait. His use of visual symbolism is strong, and the editing by Karen Schmeer is very effective." 3 1/2 cats