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Rationality Will Not Save Us

In the latest documentary from Errol Morris, Robert McNamara considers the lessons of war

Meanwhile, the film is superb. As usual, Morris has teamed with composer Philip Glass, whose repetitive, keening score haunts the film with what Morris calls "existential dread." In the interview segments, Robert Chappell's camera work is impeccable, even breathtaking. For long stretches, he places McNamara in a corner of the shot; then he shifts to a different corner, shooting from slightly above or below. In this way, the camera mirrors our efforts: Like us, it is attempting to locate McNamara, to uncover him, to truly see him. Also like us, the camera is never entirely certain that it can.

In the film's epilogue, McNamara drives away from the interview while Morris plays a segment in a voice-over -- a segment, not incidentally, with questions that McNamara refused to answer. During these evasions, we see McNamara's face reflected in the rearview mirror of his car. Do we see him properly? the shot asks. Can he see himself? And what has looking back accomplished? It's the perfect bookend to the movie's opening gambit, and it's a great question.

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