The Fog of War

Poster for The Fog of War

Spring 2004 Main series

Sunday, May 16, 2004 at 4:00pm
Sunday, May 16, 2004 at 7:00pm
Monday, May 17, 2004 at 7:00pm

Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS

Directed by


Rated NR · 1h 46m

The Fog of War, a Special Presentation at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, and one of the most talked about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a Twentieth Century fable, the story of an American dreamer who rose from humble origins to the heights of political power. Robert S. McNamara was both witness to and participant in many of the crucial events that define the Twentieth Century. His first memory is of the parades that followed the end of the first World War; he experienced the crippling depression of the 1930s first hand; the industrialization of the war years; the development of a new type of warfare based on air power and weapons of inconceivable destruction and the creation of a new America. He was also an idealist who saw his dreams and ideals challenged by the role he played in history. As United States Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, he served under two Presidents and was ultimately involved with the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis and the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam. Now eighty-seven years old, McNamara has seen it all – he also served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, rose to the presidency of the Ford Motor Company and, after leaving the Johnson administration, became head of the World Bank.

Master documentarian Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) was inspired to make The Fog of War after reading McNamara’s memoirs, in which the former defense secretary questions the moral dimension of his political actions. Morris has always been fascinated by deeply conflicted and ambiguous people and this subject offers him another perfect canvas to explore the complexities of what makes us human. Morris conducted about twenty hours of frank interviews with McNamara, touching not only on his White House years, but also on his career outside of government, including his role in firebombing Japanese cities during the Second World War (McNamara poignantly asks, “Would it be moral to not burn 100,000 Japanese civilians, or instead to lose hundreds of thousands lives in an invasion of Japan?”). The film is also the first to exploit fully tapes of telephone conversations between McNamara and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. It is a multi-layered portrait of a brilliant man who has been accused of everything from blundering to coldness to duplicity and it takes us through some of the most momentous events of the Cold War. Structured as eleven lessons from McNamara’s life, The Fog of War shows us a man desperate to ask key questions about past events, the world and morality, but trapped as well by those same events in which he was a player. The film is never less than fascinating – Morris once again gives us a superb examination of the human experience.

“A warning beacon about fog conditions that never subside but only shift to American military involvement in other parts of the world.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“One of the best documentaries of this or any year.” – Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“This is spellbinding reality cinema about duplicity and, worse, ignorance at the highest level.” – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

“[Morris] gave him a stage – and Mr. McNamara took it – to chart the tragedy of Vietnam and prove that war is too complex, too dangerous for fallible human beings in power to know what they’re doing.” – Jane Sumner, The Dallas Morning News