Although I’ve never held a role in politics, nor do I intend to, there’s no doubt that they come with the most stressful occupations. Whether it’s president, vice president, or even house speaker, one is under immense pressure from day one to ensure they are making the right calls and ensuring they have the trust of the American public. One other role that deals with a lot of pressure is secretary of defense. And when wars break out, they are the ones who are under the microscope of the American people on a 24/7 basis.
The Fog of War is a documentary of Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Directed by Errol Morris, the documentary features interviews with Morris as he explains the decisions that were made leading up to and during the Vietnam War. It serves as a reflection of McNamara’s service and, in a sense, as a leadership development course for those in a similar role or another role in which they are called to lead. The documentary is separated by different life lessons throughout, based on what McNamara learned during his service under Kennedy and Johnson. They include “Empathize with your enemy,” “Maximize efficiency,” and “Belief and seeing are both often wrong.”
You can say what you will about the decisions McNamara made in the heat of the moment and whatever views he held onto long after his time in office ended. But Morris’ documentary captures the pain and anguish he felt when the Vietnam War was taking place. One of the film’s best moments is when Morris mentions how things would have been different if Kennedy was not assassinated and continued to serve as president throughout the 1960s. But he then quickly remarks that he appreciated Johnson’s service as well. Toward the end of the documentary, there are some questions Morris asks McNamara, but he refuses to answer them out of fear of how they’ll be interpreted and how he’ll be viewed. It’s incredible to see someone have such an intense reaction to a question long after he’s been separated from service.
Most of the film is comprised of interviews and archival footage, and this recent Blu-ray transfer enhances the quality of the picture tremendously. There are only a few special features, such as 24 additional scenes and one that goes over McNamara’s lessons he learned from his time in politics. But this is still a miraculous transfer and a film that is worthy of a view, no matter what side of the aisle you are on.