It never would have occurred to me that a documentary about politics (a subject I generally find as appealing as a wet dog) could be so engaging. Former Secretary of State William McNamara (he toiled under Nixon’s administration) allowed noted non-fiction filmmaker Errol Morris to interview him for several hours, and The Fog of War is the result of their conversation. Morris doesn’t allow any other voices to be heard; McNamara is the sole speaker in the film. And though it might seem as though that’d lead to a rather one-sided interpretation of the facts, that seems to essentially be the point. The movie never purports to be a neutral recollection of history; rather, this is a look back from one man’s point of view (it’s certain events the way McNamara remembers them, which doesn’t necessarily mean that’s exactly what happened). McNamara, sharply dressed in an expensive-looking suit and filmed against the backdrop of an oddly futuristic looking set, proves to be a fascinating speaker – full of interesting anecdotes and keen insights into his own career. And though it was forty years ago, McNamara becomes choked up when talking about the assassination of J.F.K. The bulk of the film’s running time is devoted to Vietnam, an ill-conceived war that McNamara claims he was against from the start. There’s no denying that McNamara’s refusal to accept blame for the infamous war will anger those with a more intimate knowledge of the facts, but still, the man does make a compelling argument for his case. Morris has designed the film in such a way that it should appeal to history buffs and neophytes alike, which had to have been one heck of a task.
*** out of ****