Documentary by Eugene Jarecki
Studio: Sony Pictures 13894
Video: 1.78:1 ratio (same as 16:9), color & B&W
Audio: DD 5.1, English
Subtitles: English captions, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Commentary by the director and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Additional scenes, Extended character featurettes, Selections from audience Q&A with filmmaker, Filmmaker TV appearances on The Daily Show and Charlie Rose, Theatrical trailer
Length: 98 minutes
Dwight D. Eisenhower may have stood for the staunchest 1950s conformity and complacency, but his 1961 outgoing national address made him a visionary, iconoclast and amazingly prophetic canary-in-the-coal-mine concerning the growing “military industrial complex.” Most of us who heard the speech at the time or have heard or read excerpts since probably missed the seriousness of his strongly-worded warning and telling phrase is usually used out of context of the entire portion of the speech on this important subject. Since Jarecki repeats the miltary-industrial part of the speech about three times on the DVD (including behind the setup Top Menu screen), one becomes very familiar with it.
Jarecki employed the same title for this documentary as was used by Frank Capra for his series of WWII short films explaining to the public America’s reasons for entering the war. The connection is not accidental. What drives us to fight against an ever-changing enemy today? Jarecki’s point is that the military has become far too important in American life and dominates our foreign policies. He pegs the birth of this military-industrial complex on the dropping of the two atom bombs on Japan in spite of their having made preliminary inquiries about surrender. Eisenhower was most unhappy with the decision to drop the bombs. There have been so many military operations since that time that almost no one could name all of them; Jarecki does.
Jarecki takes us to a convention of armament-makers, to an air show, to Congress with former insiders who explain the finer details of the dark combination of money, politics and war that has placed the United States in such an untenable position in the world today. Among those interviewed are Senator John McCain, Gore Vidal, Dan Rather, and a woman who dropped out of a high position in the Pentagon to raise horses. An even more personal slant is taken by the filmmaker following two ordinary people, showing two aspects of the disturbing situation: One is a young man at loose ends who is completely taken in by an Army recruiter and confidently signs up to put his life on the line for financial and educational goals. The other is a retired NYC policeman whose son was killed in 9/11. He asks the army to put his son’s name on a missile being used in Iraq, and they do. Then he views the telecast when Bush said there was no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq and is devastated for being blatantly lied to.
Eisenhower was a great fan of 3D photography; there are many photos of him with his Stereo-Realist stereoscopic camera around his neck. Perhaps our politicians need to follow in his footsteps and take an in-depth look at what has happened to our country.
Jarecki uses no animation, cartoons, bar charts or humor. Yet the footage and audio he does use is thoroughly professional and high quality – hitting home with great effectiveness. There have been quite a few political documentaries in the theaters lately and more coming, but I believe this to be the most important yet. The facts that Jarecki brings out may not be that new or unexpected to some viewers, but in toto their overwhelming force clearly reveals that this country has wandered very far from the principles of our founding fathers.
— John Sunier