The Fog of War

By Ashish Ghadiali

It’s a little late in the day, but not too late if you run, to catch Errol Morris’ scintillating doc – The Fog of War.  Composed from an extensive and in-depth interview with Robert McNamara, the former US Secretary of Defence, the finished product appears like a kind of confession, from a man once perceived to be at the heart of America’s policy in Vietnam.

It instills a feeling of dread as we explore through McNamara’s eyes the excesses of America’s bombing attacks on Japan. The same sense recurs when he explains quite how close the world came to a holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960’s. And yet, there is also a feeling of relief that comes from seeing a man whom history will hold as a figure of American’s aggression showing a little more humanity and wisdom that anything issuing from the Pentagon today. It suggests the possibility, as far flung as it seems, that American policy could move a different way.

At a length of 106 minutes, the interview is cut together with a variety of archive footage and stylised photography, and the result is that the film manages to eschew any experience of documentary heaviness. In fact you come away with a sense of admiration for its visual inventiveness – a quirky series of jump cuts, a vibrant interview set-up shot with flair onto 35 mm film. Against the grain of the film’s troubling subject matter, we are helped by a conversational lightness that carries us quickly through these lessons of an old man’s life.
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