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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Below is a copy of a review I posted in IMDb.com shortly after seeing this documentary interview with Robert S. McNamara, former US Sec'y of Defense, and instrumental in US involvement in VietNam war and policy (probably in 2004 or "5).

This film won the 2004 Oscar for best documentary.


I said to my friend, as we left the theater, "this should be required viewing by everyone of voting age before they vote," and she agreed.

I lived through much of the era when McNamara was active in the USAF and DoD and in this film he brought a deepened, sometimes frightening, view of life behind the scenes -- kind of like when Toto reveals the wizard behind the curtain at Oz, but this film gives us a less benign conclusion.

I've read Roger Ebert's external review (q.v., http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040123/REVIEWS/401230302/1023 ) and largely agree.

The movie ends shortly after McNamara quotes a few lines from T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." I reread this poem and was struck by how many passages in the poem captured RSM's present pondering and thinking. Some is in the vein of 'people who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.' Take, for instance, this from the opening of the first of the Eliot quartets:

"Time present and time past// Are both perhaps present in time future// And time future contained in time past...."


"A people without history// Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern// Of timeless moments...."

Several times, the interviewer goads RSM to either apologize for his actions (or to blame someone else) and each time, RSM declines. My view is that he decided if he did say more, it would implicate others and be self-serving and he declined to do that.

"The only wisdom we can hope to acquire// Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless...."

One cannot help but be struck, over and over, by how pertinent RSM's eleven lessons are to the present world conflicts and the US position in them. I was impressed to discover that it's to RSM (probably as much -- more? -- than to Ralph Nader?) that we owe safer vehicles on the highway. That an obscure (to me) former ambassador to the USSR was probably the key figure in avoiding a world nuclear holocaust in the Cuban missile crisis. (Impressed also by RSM's clarity and intelligence; that he was 85 at the time of the filming only adds to it.)

RSM quoting a passage from near the end of "Four Quartets." It neatly summarizes what he's been doing through the film in sharing his thinking:

"We shall not cease from exploration// And the end of all our exploring// Will be to arrive where we started// And know the place for the first time."

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