Thursday, July 22, 2010


Distributor: First Run
Release Date: January 29, 2010
Genre: Documentary
Running Time: 94 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg released “The Pentagon Papers,” which revealed top level secrets detailing the United States’ government planning processes for the Vietnam War in great detail. He and a dedicated team spent hours making copies of damning documents and leaked them to primarily the New York Times. President Richard Nixon called him the Most Dangerous Man in America – so it’s not just a clever title.

Directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith have crafted a compelling tale out of information that shouldn’t surprise anyone over the age of 18. The atrocities and corruption surrounding the Vietnam War have been explored in other (admittedly better) documentaries like “Hearts and Minds,” “The War at Home,” or “The Fog of War.” Daniel Ellsberg had a huge part in the fallout and public disenchantment with the war, and he certainly has deserved a film to tell his story. Honestly I’m a little surprised that Ellsberg hasn’t gotten his own “All the President’s Men” treatment. Maybe Sean Penn could play him.

But I digress. “Pentagon Papers” works as a documentary because it will refresh the memories of those who lived through it, but it’s also detailed enough for the uninitiated. Ellsberg himself is the narrator of the story (much like Robert McNamara in “Fog”), and that gives the film a personal touch, as the stories are coming straight from the man who lived through them. The only drawback to this is that the film lacks a strong interviewer like Errol Morris to really probe into the subject matter. Although admittedly not being as good of a documentarian as Errol Morris is nothing at all to be ashamed about.

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” is a solid documentary that has the ability to enlighten and make us think. For example, does starting a war in another country for reasons that were unclear under a President of somewhat dubious moral character ring any bells?

I definitely came out of this movie with a newfound respect for Daniel Ellsberg and what he did. He decided to do the right thing no matter what the consequences would be. I also gained a measure of respect for the New York Times and all of the other publications that went against the Government’s wishes and published the papers, as they should. In today’s era of 24-hour news filled with sound bytes and political commentators, it’s heartening to realize there was a time when freedom of the press meant something. As a journalist, this film made me proud. As an American Citizen, this film made me even prouder.

Theater: Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha, NE
Time: 300 pm
Date: April 23, 2010

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