Emotional rollercoaster of a documentary that, thankfully and very refreshingly, ignores the recent TV trend for factually questionable 'docudrama' approach, instead being a stark, no-holds-barred, lengthy face to camera interview with former US Secretary of Defense and former Ford Motor Company manager of planning and financial analysis, Robert McNamara. This interspersed with archival footage.
The impact is as impressive as it is rare. McNamara had a role at the very heart of some of history's most brutal acts of inhumanity to mankind. Your view of just how much of what he was involved in was 'justifiable' or even necessary may depend on your politics, but Morris keeps a mainly distanced and nonpartisan position, rather coaxing McNamara to be as frank as his can about the things he was responsible for coming up with; leaving any 'judgement' to the viewer. At times, McNamara chooses not to answer some of the more challenging questions put to him and he is often, understandably, guarded at times. Nevertheless, at others he is surprisingly forthcoming with facts and opinions.
Highly questionable though much of what McNamara, stood for, played a key role in, advocated, or still defends, only stone hearts will not feel the effect of McNamara's tears as he gradually and publicly, for the first time it seems, acknowledges that he carries a terrible burden of responsibility on his old shoulders. The impact overcomes the too-flabby duration, and the needlessly numerous lesson 'chaptering' referred to in the title, and the result is the perfect alternative to Michael Moore polemics. 8/10
Rob Dyer (November 2005)
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