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MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA, THE: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS

SYNOPSIS:
In 1971, ex Rand Corporation, Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist Daniel Ellsberg concludes that the war is based on decades of lies - and guilty silence, including his own; he painstakingly copies and leaks 7,000 pages of top secret documents, sending them to The New York Times. Hailed as a hero, vilified as a traitor and ostracized even by his colleagues, Ellsberg risks life in prison to stop a war he helped plan. A landmark battle begins between America's major newspapers and the Administration, leading to Watergate and ultimately to Nixon's resignation and the end of the Vietnam War.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It was Henry Kissinger who dubbed Daniel Ellsberg the most dangerous man in America, after Ellsberg leaked 'the Pentagon papers' - the secret policy-making communications about the start and continuation of the Vietnam War. The first secret is unveiled less than four minutes into the film: the US navy was not attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 by North Vietnamese torpedoes, a false alarm that was negated before the war order from President Johnson.

Before the Oscar nominated film is halfway through, Daniel Ellsberg relates through barely suppressed tears, how his life split in two when he came to the decision that he had to make a reversal - a total reversal - of his initial position, and try to end the war. It's one of the milestone moments in the film, which gathers its material and presents it in such a compelling way that is at once engaging and brutal - brutal for its impact on our sense of decency as the litany of lies cascades into the war - and the liars are not just the minor players, but four Presidents of the United States.

Often much like a spy thriller, the film is told by and through Ellsberg, adding authentic weight and personal impact to the revelations. The enormity of the story juxtaposed with the notion of one man singlehandedley changing history is irresistibly powerful. This together with the roles played by his wife and young son at the time, put down the extra layers of humanity that drive the film's insistent message: do the right thing and be true to yourself.

And another message reverberates: Ellsberg offered the Pentagon papers to congessmen who had been against the war: none dared use it. The ingrained fear of taking a stand against the US Administration over major international policy prevented them.

It's a superbly assembled, edited and structured doco with the power to enthuse us about the same system that brings it shame. A collapse of integrity, as one of the Nixon White House 'plumbers' Egil Krogh puts it, is balanced by the American justice system coming to the rescue of integrity. But what a great price was paid.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA, THE: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS (PG)
(US, 2009)

CAST: Documentary featuring Daniel Ellsberg, John Dean, Patricia Ellsberg

PRODUCER: Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldmsith

DIRECTOR: Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldmsith

SCRIPT: Michael Chandler, Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldmsith, Lawrence Lerew

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vicente Franco, Dan Krauss

EDITOR: Michael Chandler, Rick Goldmsith, Lawrence Lerew

MUSIC: Blake Leyh

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: April 8, 2010; Sydney: June 24, 2010; other cities to follow







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