The Best Documentary of 2003 looks at events that happened 30 to 60 years ago, but it could just as easily be about the current world situation. The Fog of War proves that history repeats itself and thus that history is important to know. Perhaps if President Bush had watched this movie five years ago our country would not be in the situation that it is in today.
The Fog of War, directed by Errol Morris, looks at the life and times of Robert McNamara, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Before that he was president of the Ford Motor Company, and even earlier, during World War II, was an important factor in making the bombings of Japan "more efficient." To say the least, he has been a heavy influence in many of the military undertakings of the United States, and in hindsight, his reflection is less than pleasant.
The movie presents eleven lessons as told by McNamara, most of which resolve around learning from your mistakes, emphasizing with the enemy and plenty of other things that the Bush Administration has failed miserably to do. Though there are no direct attacks on the current administration, it is quite clear that the film is attacking those responsible for the horrendous foreign policy that the United States is standing by. This is the reason why The Fog of War had no problem winning an Oscar.
As documentaries go, The Fog of War is pretty basic. The movie either features interview segments of McNamara or archive footage, all of which use the same repetitive yet somewhat intriguing music. At times the documentary feels a bit too much like one that was made for classrooms. Nevertheless, a documentary's success does not lie in its look but in the message that it is telling, and the message here is quite powerful.
The movie does lose focus in a few parts, especially when McNamara begins to talk about his work with Ford. McNamara is obviously trying to paint a balanced picture of his life, but when everything else is about war, the Ford Motor Company seems a bit out of place.
The Fog of War is an important film, especially in this day and age. In a world that is being torn apart by misunderstandings, perhaps it is wise to look back at the actions of those in the past and do something different. Amazingly, The Fog of War is not a partisan film like Bowling for Columbine was; it is simply a commentary on the mistakes that this country has made, and is making.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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