login | register

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

"I think the human race needs to think more about killing" 

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Robert Strange McNamara was the Secretary of Defence in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and was involved in such events as the Vietnam War, World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He later went on to become president of the World Bank, and, earlier in his career was the first non-family-member president of the Ford Motor Company. In this documentary he is a man of 85 looking back on his life with a greater wisdom and moral judgement.

As well as the eleven lessons about war, this film is littered with startling revelations about America's bloody past. McNamara explains (with his fingers) just how shockingly close the Cuban missile crisis came to nuclear war, and that the situation was saved by the offhand suggestion of an underling. McNamara also talks about the firebombing of 67 Japanese cities, which took place before the two A-bombs were dropped, and killed over 100,000 civilians. He admits that had the Allies lost World War 2 he would have been tried for war crimes, the only reason he is not a criminal is because his side won.

There are still aspects of his career that McNamara won't talk about, like why he didn't speak out against the continuation of the Vietnam War, which was nicknamed McNamara's but which he admits he had objections to. In hindsight he acknowledges that he made mistakes, but does not apologise for them. Yet when reminded of the millions of deaths his decisions have been responsible for, McNamara's eyes cannot help but well up, giving some glimpse behind his hard shell.

The film combines an interview with McNamara himself with archival footage from news reports and military campaigns, accompanied by an atmospheric musical score by the legendary Philip Glass.

And if you needed proof that Errol Morris is a brilliant and influential documentarian then look no further than his film, The Thin Blue Line, which led to the release of a wrongly convicted man from Death Row.

This film is no History lesson, it is a captivating insight into last century's bloodiest moments, and a man once labelled evil. See what you think.

Parker Bic

More Information | Back to Previous Schedule | This Season  |  BBFC Classification Guidelines

Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)