PATH TO WAR (TV MOVIE)
(director: John Frankenheimer; screenwriters: Daniel Giat/LBJ biography by Robert Caro; cinematographer: Stephen Goldblatt; editor: Richard-Francis Bruce; music: Gary Chang; cast: Michael Gambon (President Lyndon Baines Johnson), Robert McNamara (Alec Baldwin), Felicity Huffman (Lady Bird Johnson), Donald Sutherland (Clark Clifford), Tom Skerritt (William Westmoreland), Cliff DeYoung (MacGeorge Bundy), Frederic Forrest (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ), James Frain (Dick Goodwin), John Valenti (Jack Valenti), Bruce McGill (George Ball, Under-Secretary of State), John Alyward (Dean Rusk), Philip Baker Hall (Senator Dirksen), Sarah Paulson (Luci Baines Johnson), J.K. Simmons (CIA briefer); Runtime: 164; MPAA Rating: ; producer: Guy Riedel; HBO Films; 2002)
“The well-produced political drama plays like the TV movie it is.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It brings back bad memories of the architects of the Vietnam War and their hubris in making bad decisions that led to an unnecessary and costly war in Asia that divided the country. LBJ was arguably our worst modern-day presidents (some might say Hoover) until surpassed by the ineptitude and arrogance of the later American leaders Nixon. Bush ‘W,’ and Obama. The well-produced political drama plays like the TV movie it is. It’s inspired by the Robert A. Caro’s forgiving tome-like biography of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was researched by historian Michael Beschloss, with writer Daniel Giat supposedly keeping it accurate and making LBJ seem human. John Frankenheimer (“The Young Stranger”/”All Fall Down”/”The Train”), in his last film, helms this as an inside look at the Johnson administration in action, but adds no new twists on LBJ’s path to war. Advisers argue for increased bombings in Vietnam before South Vietnam collapses, others argue instead for increased support of LBJ’s the “Great Society” to eliminate national poverty. Both ventures can’t together be funded. We already know that the winning voice for war was mainly made by the hawkish self-righteous Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara (Alec Baldwin). This pic lets us see how the main players acted during those tense times, and how the war effort brought down the president..
The pic added nothing to my enlightenment of why LBJ failed as a prez, and it made me nauseous to see again those familiar haunting names that I learned to despise.
REVIEWED ON 7/29/2015 GRADE: B-