Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers Movie Review
The Oscar-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is now available on DVD, iTunes and on-demand, including Netflix Instant Play. The movie highlights the fragile balance between the needs of national security and a free press, a rather timely issue given the recent leak of thousands of military documents to the Internet.
Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, who apparently like long-winded titles (Ehrlich also did a movie called The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It and Goldsmith Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press), explore the motivations of Daniel Ellsberg to make his pivotal decision, which meant betraying his classified position at the RAND Corporation in favor of revealing to the public the Pentagon papers, which he came to believe needed to be seen by the average citizen. The movie features interviews with various individuals, including Ellsberg, and Nixon's recordings, which are always intriguing to listen to.
Having grown up viewing the tumultuous 60's and 70's through movies, I knew little about the details behind the Pentagon Papers or Daniel Ellsberg. The documentary provides a vivid glimpse of the issues surrounding the classified leak. It's masterfully directed and a strong production.
Even though the subject resonates with modern day events - and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future - there's something about the movie that just didn't blow me away. Compared to The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, the documentary lacks a certain punch necessary for these pictures to succeed. It's good, but not extremely memorable.
It's hard to put a finger on exactly what didn't resonate with me, but it's still a well made picture that deserves to be seen.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.